I'm a Christian, a designer, and a gadget fan who lives in Cheltenham, UK.

This is my blog, a creative outlet to mess around and play with as well as a place that logs my thoughts and inspirations.

Habits of Grace


After my posts and think­ing about dis­ci­pline last week, on Sun­day I decid­ed to order Habits of Grace by David Math­is. It arrived yes­ter­day and the study guide that goes with it is set to arrive either tomor­row or Friday.
It’s a book that’s been on my radar for a while both for it’s sub­ject mat­ter, and if I’m being hon­est, it’s design. I’ve resist­ed buy­ing it in the past because I’m aware I already have a large pile of books to I’ve yet to read, but hav­ing spent some time in prayer, read­ing, and think­ing around this sub­ject I decid­ed it was time to get my fin­ger out and order it.
I’m look­ing for­ward to div­ing in over the next month, all to often it’s easy to start grind­ing things like dis­ci­pline in terms of hob­bies and pas­sions. As a Chris­t­ian ground­ing the desire for dis­ci­pline and self con­trol in God and my faith is of far greater impor­tance. Doing that is far eas­i­er to say than it is to do, and so I’m hop­ing that this book, along with build­ing momen­tum by writ­ing here on my blog will help that mus­cle of dis­ci­pline grow into more areas of my life.

Haptic Architects Teach the Benefits of the Scandinavian “Work Life Balance” ›

Work/Life bal­ance is a thing many of us strug­gle with. I know when I was 100% self-employed it was the thing I strug­gled with most, there was always some­thing I felt I should be doing. Whilst many peo­ple claim that doing what you love means you have a per­fect work/life bal­ance that seems far to ide­al­is­tic to me. Work is work, whether we love what we do or not and we need a good bal­ance between it and the rest of our lives.
It seems Hap­tic Archi­tects have that same aware­ness, and so I was inter­est­ed to read about the Ben­e­fits of the Scan­di­na­vian Work/Life Bal­ance that they have imple­ment­ed in their design stu­dios. It seems a healthy approach to work and demon­strates a real aware­ness and care towards their employees.

Walking

Back in Jan­u­ary 2015 when I realised I was ill, and con­se­quent­ly start­ed a course of anti­de­pres­sants, many peo­ple encour­aged me to exer­cise. I had been a keen cyclist and they encour­aged me to keep at it and get out on my bike as much as I could. I was told, and in fact read many times, that exer­cise was a great way of coun­ter­ing some of the symp­toms of depres­sion. My issue was that the thought of going out on my bike caused me anx­i­ety and stress, both things which I was try­ing to avoid and so I dis­missed the notion as not for me. Near­ly two and a half years lat­er I’m start­ing to under­stand a lit­tle of what the mys­te­ri­ous they were talk­ing about.
About a month ago I moved into a new flat, one which I’m liv­ing in on my own, it’s great to have my own space again. As a con­se­quence of that move I’ve been doing a lot more walk­ing. It’s locat­ed in such a place that I can walk to pret­ty much every­where I need to go on a reg­u­lar basis. I can walk to my shifts at the cof­fee house, my church, a cou­ple of super­mar­kets, as well as the cen­tre of town, and I’ve been doing that as much as is prac­ti­cal­ly pos­si­ble. It’s become a time that I enjoy, an oppor­tu­ni­ty to pop my head­phones in and lis­ten to some music or catch up on a few podcasts.
Over the last cou­ple of weeks I’ve begun to notice some­thing, when I don’t get my dai­ly walks in my mood suf­fers. The real­i­sa­tion has come home to roost this bank hol­i­day week­end. On Sat­ur­day and Mon­day I did­n’t real­ly go out. I stayed home in my flat tin­ker­ing on my web­sites, mak­ing a few adjust­ments, watch­ing some TV shows, what most peo­ple call relax­ing. And it has been just that, but today I noticed the heav­i­ness creep­ing in, it made me realise what effect going out for a walk has on me.
It’s not just the small amount of exer­cise that a brisk walk pro­vides that I’ve missed today, it’s the inten­tion­al­i­ty of going for a walk. Instead of the day just pass­ing by, the act of walk­ing to work is inten­tion­al and pro­vides an ele­ment of struc­ture to my day. I need to sched­ule in the time for my walk to work oth­er­wise I won’t get there on time let­ting peo­ple down. It helps that my walk to work is a pleas­ant one down an old rail­way line, that’s what’s in the pho­to at the top of this post, for a moment I can be lost in the won­der of look­ing at the trees and green­ery as I walk. It pro­vides a chance to look at God’s cre­ation and see how the same place changes from day to day. It’s a chance to walk and lis­ten to some new music or the lat­est pod­casts, in my own lit­tle world that’s out­side in the wider world. It’s a chance to pop the head­phones out and walk lis­ten­ing to the birds and rustling of the trees. When the sun’s out it’s espe­cial­ly enjoy­able, but even on a rainy day I look for­ward to my walk to work.
Almost by acci­dent I’ve dis­cov­ered that the act of walk­ing to work pro­vides me with a moment of calm. In that walk there is noth­ing I can do for my design busi­ness, noth­ing I need to do for my cof­fee house shift, no tweets or Insta­gram pho­tos to catch up on (unless I want to walk into my fel­low walk­ers or be run over by the many cyclists), I can just enjoy the sim­ple act of walking.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

Do More Better ›

I fin­ished read­ing Do More Bet­ter this after­noon. It’s a very well writ­ten and thought pro­vok­ing read. I plan on begin imple­ment­ing some of Tim’s sug­ges­tions in to my work­flow in the next week or two. If you’re inter­est­ed in look­ing st pro­duc­tiv­i­ty with a bib­li­cal ground­ing, I sug­gest you give it a read.