Seth’s Blog: This Is Post 7,000 ›

Seth Godin made his 7,000th post to his blog yesterday.

7,000.

That’s one post a day for just over 19 years. That’s both inspiring and humbling at the same time. Inspiring because it makes turning up to post on a blog everyday doable and something that is entirely achievable. Humbling because I haven’t managed to complete a whole months worth of posts everyday for a long time, let alone a whole year.

There’s one thing that we can learn from anyone who is able to repeatedly turn up like Seth has been for the last 19 years. It’s a skill we can all learn. Posting to a blog everyday for 19 years isn’t only for people who have a large following, we’re all capable of doing it, it just takes a bit of discipline. So here’s to the next 19 years Seth, and everyone who blogs with any regularity.

Deep Prayer > Deep Work ›

There’s been a lot of talk on the internet circles I follow about focus and deep work. They’re thought provoking and often resonate with me, but there’s one thing I’ve been struggling to reconcile in it all. The focus of all these discussions is usually aimed at putting your individual desires first, which doesn’t really jive with my Christian beliefs.

Chris Bowler, in his excellently considered article Deep Prayer > Deep Work, seems to demonstrate I’m not alone. In doing so he seems to capture exactly how this kind of thinking should be influencing my approach to my faith.

But over and over, I come back to the fact that while Newport’s concept of increasing our ability to focus is crucial to a successful career, it’s even more crucial to a successful Christian life. One that is lived attuned to the Spirit. One that is carefully watching to see where God is working, then ready and willing to join him in it.

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.

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.

Kill Your To Do List ›

Here’s what’s always bothered me about task management systems: it’s not what Presidents use.

I’ve never thought of this before. It’s never even crossed my mind about the methods of working for people in high powered positions, or national office. Yet it shouldn’t be a surprise when you think about.

After reading this excellent article from CJ Chilvers it struck me that in the last few months this is something I’ve started to do subconsciously.When I think back to how I’ve progressed some projects recently it’s all been down to clearly blocking out time on my calendar and then working during those times.

Of course I’ve not entirely scrapped my to do list, and I think it would be wrong to scrap it completely. It’s a useful tool for keeping track of the client projects I’m working on. The important thing, I think, is to not let your to do list dictate your time and instead to let your calendar dictate your to do list.

The calendar doesn’t lie. It’s brutal about how much time you actually have in a day to complete your projects. It’s honest. We need to stop wishing, determine what’s important enough to spend our very limited time on and get it scheduled.

You’re Not Meant To Do What You Love. You’re Meant To Do What You’re Good At. ›

Do what you love has been a bit of a mantra of late on the internet, at least on the blogs I seem to have been reading over the last couple of years. It’s something that I love the sentiment of, but at the same time something that has never quite sat properly with me. So when I saw the phrase You’re Not Meant To Do What You Love. You’re Meant To Do What You’re Good At in a tweet link to the matching article I instantly saved it to my Instapaper.

I agree entirely with this point:

We’re doing people an incredible disservice by telling them they should seek, and pursue, what they love. People usually can’t differentiate what they really love and what they love the idea of.

But more importantly, you are not meant to do what you love. You are meant to do what you’re skilled at.

The trouble comes when the people who are espousing the mantra of do what you love are the fortunate few who’s skill also happen to be what they love. It gives them a distorted view that everyone should be doing this and it creates a worldview that doing work is a bad thing unless it’s something you love.

The husband of an old colleague of mine had a period of unemployment not long after they got married. It really impacted him as a person and I remember talking to my colleague about how her husband felt worthless because of it. He wanted to work because not working made him feel worthless. When he did get a job, it was not in something he loved, but it gave him meaning again. He was contributing to society, not reliant on it. He was giving something of himself to do it and what he was doing had value because of it.

As a Christian I believe we are designed to work, God even designed and modelled the week around it six days of work and one day of rest (Sabbath). The theologian Tim Keller in his book Every Good Endeavour states

Work is as much a basic human need as food, beauty, rest, friendship, prayer, and sexuality; it is not simply medicine but food for our soul. Without meaningful work we sense significant inner loss and emptiness. People who are cut off from work because of physical or other reasons quickly discover how much they need work to thrive emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

This is exactly what my colleague’s husband experienced. Without work he struggled in exactly the way Tim suggests we will. When we fall into the trap of telling people to only do what they love, we do a disservice to work. For some people their work involves doing what they love, whilst for others it involves doing what they are skilled at. For some, maybe even the majority, it involves doing a job because it gives them value and helps them serve people around them.

The article finishes with this quote which I think sums up the value of work, of any kind, superbly.

The real joy of daily work is in what we have to give. We are not fulfilled by what we can seek to please us, but what we can build and offer. It is not fame, or money, or recognition that makes for a thoroughly meaningful life, it is how we put our gifts to use. It is how we give.

The Longest Shortest Distance ›

“So I propose we forget the phrase “just do what you love” because it’s exhausting and misleading. We need less instant gratification and more patience in our practice”

I couldn’t help but identify with these final few words from Kyle Steed. Society today is so desperate to do just the things we love and to get there in the shortest possible way that it forgets the value in having to do things we don’t want to do, but that we need to do. It sets so many people up for massive falls as they make big leaps to begin doing things that they’re not yet ready to do. There’s too much I want it now and not enough willingness to work and explore and grow into whatever that it is.

Why Margin is Critical for Doing Your Best Creative Work ›

A healthy dose of margin in your life gives you the space you need to think, dream, strategize, wrestle through complexity, focus deeply, and, ultimately, do your best creative work.

This piece by Shawn Blanc has been sat in my Instapaper for quite a while, but when I read the sentence above I immediately agreed. When you’re in constant hustle mode, when everything down to what jobs you work on and when you can find time to send out those all important invoices is imperative to your ability to exist in life, decisions and dreams disappear. When there’s no margin in anything in your life, your ability to work well goes and your ability to even think creatively vanishes let alone do the work your business depends on.

I’ve learnt the hard way, margin in life is imperative to being able to create well.

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!

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.

The Week In Links

This weeks edition is coming to you slightly late, no excuses other than yesterday flew by and I forgot to post it. I’ve tried something a little different this week, adding some commentary to a couple of links I really enjoyed and then listing some other good reads below them. I’m hoping to evolve this series a little over the summer to inject a bit more of myself into them. Hope you enjoy this weeks edition.

  • THE ALPS by STRAVA – The last week of this year’s Le Tour de France has been through the Alps. This photo story from Strava catches some of what the Peloton has been through these last few days. Even if you’re not a cycling fan these photos are worth viewing. The mountains are stunningly beautiful, I could sit and look at them all day and I loved visiting the Alps the three times I’ve been skiing.
  • Don’t Let Success Breed Failure — Shawn Blanc – The second half of this article from Shawn resonated with me and is why I’ve included it in this weeks edition. As a self employed person I spend a lot of time thinking about this kind of thing, especially after events earlier this year. It’s so tempting to continually say yes to everything, but it’s not possible to do it all. It takes a laser focus and discipline to make sure that workloads and priorities remain manageable.

Other links of interest

The Week in Links

It’s been an interesting week, during which I’ve managed to plough through a good chunk or articles that I had been saving. It’s made this weeks edition a bit of a bumper one, and there’s a couple of articles that wouldn’t otherwise have made it. One of my favourite sporting events of the year started yesterday, Le Tour de France, and so there are a couple of interview with British riders ahead of it. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Creativity’s Worst Enemy ›

What if we simply replaced moments where we had every right to complain, and created something instead? What would the world look like?

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine what the world would be like if no one complained and instead created something?

It’s all about your mindset, something that I’ve been learning over the last few months. How we approach things has a massive influence on our behaviour. The more that we encounter something and complain or dwell on it, the less likely we are to respond to other things in a favourable way. With this in mind, it makes so much sense that the biggest enemy of creativity is complaining. If we complain we expect someone else to fix the problem instead of looking for the solution ourselves.

The Focus Course ›

WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE WHEN IT COMES TO FOCUS?

I’ve been following Shawn and his blog for years. He was one of the first people I met when I started my first blog way back in 2006, whether he’s aware of it or not he’s been one of the people who’ve inspired me the most in the last ten years. It’s no surprise to me then how postively his new project,The Focus Course, has been met. I’ve been following with interest over the last year as he’s been putting it together and the content he’s be creating around it has been his best yet. Pretty sure the course will be even better.

The Week in Links

This weeks edition of The Week in Links covers a rande of topics. There’s the usual dose of Apple things, some thoughts from Shawn Blanc on focus and creativity, an obituary to one of the greatest type designers of all time, a moving video from Israel and a moving story from the Welsh valleys.

With the edition also falling on Father’s Day it would be remiss not to mention my Dad. So just a quick note to him to say thanks for being my Dad, you support me, you help me and you guide me and as well as being my Dad you’re also a great friend. Have a beer on me tonight!

The Week in Links

The sun has been shining here this weekend and I’ve been out on the bike I enjoying it. Consequently this weeks edition of The Week in Links is a bit later than usual. There’s still some interesting reads to enjoy with your Sunday evening glass of beer or wine!

The Week in Links

This weeks edition of The Week in Links is packed with some great reads and a stunning video. It covers notebooks, Antarctica, workspaces, focus, learning and a stunning piece of branding. Grab a coffee, beer or glass of wine and sit back and enjoy.

Give a Damn ›

As I read Give a Damn by Bruce Layman I found myself nodding a long in agreement. Perhaps it’s just the way I’ve been thinking of late, or perhaps it’s because of the new focus I seem to be finding for my business, but something about it resonated with me. Resting well is important, I know only too well as I recover from the effects of doing too much in the last half of last year, but there’s a difference between rest and laziness. Doing something can, and should, be a part of that rest.