Three Gratitudes – A Journalling Practice

Most days, I write in my journal. It’s mostly gibberish, brain farts I have to get out so I can sleep or irrational worries I want to ridicule on the page so I can get on with the rest of my day. But one thing I do regularly in my mind, even when it doesn’t make it onto the page is the 3 Gs practice. No, it’s not an inferior cellular network – it’s just a very simple practice that leaves you in a better mood to start, or end, your day.

3 Gs stands for 3 Gratitudes (yes, that noun can be countable TEFL teachers) and the three gratitudes you choose fall into one of three categories.

The first gratitude is where you acknowledge a PERSON that you are grateful for. You don’t need to write the reason, but it will often amplify the feeling of gratitude if you can state specific reasons that you are grateful to, or for them in your life.

The second gratitude is where you acknowledge an EXPERIENCE that you are grateful for. Again, writing in detail about the experience will applify your gratitude for it. It doesn’t need to be an experience that you have already had – it could be from the past, present or future. I try to stick with the present or recent past, and only dip into the past of near future if I’m struggling.

The third gratitude is where you acknowledge a POSSESSION that you are grateful for. Don’t get all spiritual and feel guilty about the material world for a second – just be thankful for that phone, laptop or tablet, and if you can state the reasons why, it may make you feel even more so.

If for whatever reason you are struggling to come up with an example in each category or feel anything for your choices, rather than assuming that you are ungrateful or lacking imagination, answer these questions:

  • What would life have been like (or currently would be like) without this person (just pick someone randomly) in my life?
  • What would life have been like (or currently would be like) without this experience (just pick one) in your life?
  • What would life have been like (or currently would be like) without this possession (just pick something) in my life?
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Below I’ve written some ideas to get your gratitude juices flowing.

Person

Partner, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, friends, mates, colleagues, customers…doctors, nurses, shop workers, postal workers, train drivers, carers, scientists, farmers, engineers, teachers…the list is endless.

Experience

Future holidays may be a distant dream, but past holidays can be a pleasant memory to be grateful for, but there are some really basic daily experiences that when you think about it, make you thankful e.g. breathing easily through your nose (no hay fever or cold), breathing at all (try WHM), hot showers, homemade food, walks in nature, my children’s laughter, my children wanting my attention, breaking a fast, waking up before my alarm goes off, reading a book, watching a film or TV show, electricity to power lights, kettle, internet…and again, I’ve been doing this for a few years so these come easily. Right now, this lockdown experience offers some positives, some reasons to be thankful – as well as all of the upheaval and tragedy. I’m not denying that the negative is there, or could be there the very next moment, just making the decision to focus on what’s positive.

Possession

I have too many possessions and I am making an effort to be more minimalist. The possessions that I do own that I’m regularly grateful for include my phone, my laptop, my TV and fire stick. My books, my clothes, my car, my home, my camera, my guitar.

Next Level Gratitude

Sometimes I look at something I own, maybe a shirt is missing a button or my bike tyre is flat – and a lot of the time, I’ll put off fixing those things. This is a habit that I need to change, if I want to take my gratitude to the next level.

It’s all well and good being grateful in my head, writing it down in my journal – it feels good and puts me in a better state of mind. But the next step is to tell that person, “Thank You”, to share that positive experience with those close to you – not necessarily on Facebook or Instagram, just a closed Whats app group perhaps? And I need to maintain my possessions – sew on those buttons, pump up those tyres, or give those possessions away if they start to feel as if they own me rather than other way around.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

Thank You

Thank you Uncle Michael – the life and soul of every party, thank you for those caravan holidays in Norfolk, thank you for the book of birds you gave me as a kid that I’m now sharing with my children.

Thank you everyone for reading, liking, sharing, commenting and subscribing. I made it to day 10, so these posts will be weekly from now on. With any luck the reduction in pressure to produce so much quantity will result in an improving quality.

UBI and B******* Jobs

In typical No Rocket Scientist fashion, I have been trying to expand my mental horizons and read a bit wider afield than usual. I’m a fan of self-development, science and health books, but I find history, politics and religion a bit tedious.

That said, two books that I have found particularly intriguing are Rutger Bregman’s book, Utopia for Realists, and David Graeber’s book, Bullshit Jobs.

Bregman argues that a Universal Basic Income (UBI – free money for all to cover basic expenses like food and rent) is a possibility and a positive solution to many problems such as homelessness, poverty and even environmental damage. Well I’m all in favour of that. Elon Musk, despite stating that it’s not what he would want to happen, sees UBI as inevitable due to the automation of so many jobs. The left and the right have their own versions and motivations for UBI – which is reassuring, as I’m repelled from either in side their extremes.

So lockdown is giving us a taste of the future. Many employees have started to question (if they weren’t doing so already) the point of their current job. Many are learning the distinguishing features of a s*** job – a hard job with terrible conditions or low pay, but which is of use to society e.g. nurses, and a b******* job – a meaningless and pointless job you do but can’t justify the existence of e.g. advertising executive. I can therefore drop the “bull” from my job description, but that doesn’t negate the small print I ignored when I signed up. A few questions that thinking about these things has brought up for me are:

What meaning do we find in life without employment?

Without work, what’s your ikigai (reason for getting out of bed)?

What employment would we choose if our basic needs were covered and we could retrain?

Debt Cancellation

The current crisis understandably throws some anomalies into my initial analysis of this concept.

I have heard people I admire (e.g. Russell Brand) talk about this in the past, and they lose me for the following (faulty or questionable? Happy to discuss) reasons:

If I go out and choose to drink more alcohol than my body is able to handle – there will be a consequence to that action. One I’m all too familiar with.

If I eat continuously, especially high carbohydrate or highly processed foods, and don’t move enough, there will be consequences to that action as well. As I get older, those consequences become apparent a lot more quickly than they used to – and take a longer time to put right again!

So if I spend more money than I earn, and borrow to spend more than I have saved, the obvious consequence to that behaviour is debt. My values, beliefs and actions i.e. habits, have landed me in that debt. My inability to spend only what I’ve earned (hopefully a little less than I’ve earned), my inability to wait, my insatiable desire to consume.

If I’m hungover, overweight or in debt, I don’t expect sympathy. As much as I would love someone to come and solve these problems for me, I don’t expect it or see it as a right. I don’t want to be in those situations in the first place, so I do my best not to end up in those places – and double my efforts if I do temporarily end up there.

What I’m saying is – does being “saved” from the consequences of our actions really help us in the long run? Shouldn’t we be assisted, helped to change our habits, rather than having our slates wiped clean and getting ourselves into the same mess all over again?

My initial knee-jerk reaction is a feeling of injustice. “Hold on a minute, I’ve been denying myself beer/donuts/expensive holidays for years…trying to be responsible…only for them to get a saline drip/liposuction/bail out?”

But two thoughts help me see this from a different perspective and rid me of those negative (insensitive? immature?) sentiments.

  1. What if it was my brother or friend who was being saved? I’d feel relieved for them, and joyful that their burden had been lifted. I’m sure they would learn whatever they could from the past and not end up in the same situation again without a fight.
  2. What if it was my arch enemy who had been saved? Let him drink – and mask the true consequences for a while. Let him post his six pack photos, but he knows, we all know, he didn’t earn them. Let him go to Bora Bora, and forget how boring boring the other 50 weeks of the year are (don’t worry, the booze will help ease the pain).

Win-Win. So governments will do what they will do, and I suppose the important thing is not letting them get in the way of us living a life of purpose and meaning.

For my own sanity, I need to work. It’s nice to feel needed. For my own self-respect, I’m not looking for handouts – but I don’t blame anyone for trying the occasional short cut (gotta love a lifehack)!

Our identity and self-worth can’t be solely based on our occupation however, and I am more than my job. So if my work does become automated, just like when marathons get cancelled, there are other parts of me to weather the storm. It does motivate me to start looking at alternatives to my current work though – and use this lockdown as a chance to retrain in something less vulnerable to automation. Apparently I’m a closet Luddite!

Thank You

Post 9 out of 10…so close…just – one – more!!! Thanks so much for reading, liking, sharing, commenting and SUBSCRIBING! I really appreciate your time and attention, but I think I need to start trolling a few bloggers to get some comments! Either that or I need to start writing some more controversial posts that get me trolled?! I’ll work on it!

Perfecting My Morning

As the name of this site suggests, I do not consider myself the sharpest tool in the shed e.g. there were three words missing from this sentence when I originally read it back, but in my head and as I typed it, it sounded perfect!

But there’s a lot to be said for being resourceful in the face of a lack of resources (just ask MacGuyver or The A Team). In fact, an awareness of our limited time, money, energy or attention is what drives us to get creative or at least seek out others’ ideas, to make the most of the little we do have. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.

The best non-fiction books, Audible audiobooks, podcasts and YouTube videos I read/listen to/watch make me change my way of looking at world, or behave differently. I want to learn better ways to use my resources – and even now, with so much of it on my hands, I appreciate how limited time is. So how should I spend it?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Twenty-four hours, minus a third for sleep tax (I don’t resent paying this tax, as it ultimately serves me – take note Branson and Bezos!). So sixteen hours to invest – morning, afternoon, evening.

Below is a look at my current morning routine and the inspiration behind the various habits I am trying (does anyone else hear Yoda when they use that verb? Just me? OK) to instill – with varying degrees of success.

Morning Routine

04:30 – Wake up / WHM Stretching

I’ve spoken in previous posts about WHM (Wim Hof Method) and my struggles with stretching, but why wake up so early? Jocko Willink‘s book Extreme Ownership convinced me that getting up before most people means I can get things done without interruption and with the minimum amount of stress. The alternative of oversleeping, missing out on exercise, arriving late, not being prepared and spending the rest of the day playing catch-up (the type of day that was all too common in my youth) just fills me with dread. It’s not easy leaving the comfort of my bed, but a few things that have helped are:

Three alarms – first, my vibrating wrist watch gently pulls me from my slumber, one minute before what will be a LOUD mobile phone alarm at the other side of the room. To save me from the wrath of my wife, I leap out of bed (or groan and roll) and dart (shuffle) over to the phone before that alarm can sound. Jocko recommends three alarms, but in all honesty I only have two – which is working fine, so why fix it?

Eating deadline – As recommended by Mark Sisson in The New Primal Blueprint, you should eat your last meal a couple of hours (or more) before bed so I stop eating by 18:00. I can’t eat too close to bed time. I just feel too uncomfortable and wake up in the morning with a horrible taste.

Bedtime routine – or sleep hygiene, as it’s often called includes going to bed and getting up at a regular time, limiting food, drink and screen usage for two hours before bed and keeping your bedroom at an optimum temperature (cooler is better). On a good night, I will turn off the screens at 19:00, stretch and maybe shower, and then read a paperback before going to sleep at 21:00. I’ll only journal if my head is busy, or I need to write down an idea or memory before I forget it. Some great tips on becoming a super sleeper are in Dr Richard Wiseman‘s book Night School – well worth a listen.

05:00 – WHM Breathing (4 rounds)

I use the Wim Hof Method app for this, specifically the Breathing Bubble. I’m generally able to hold my breath for over three minutes now and one time I even managed four minutes. That isn’t really the goal, but it is an indication of the method working, and honestly I just love “getting high on my own supply”. It really is a trippy feeling – well worth experiencing.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

05:30 – Exercise

Cardio (running or cycling) for thirty to sixty minutes, OR bodyweight strength exercises (air squats, push ups, pull ups, planks). For the particulars on these, refer to the book The New Primal Blueprint mentioned earlier. I’m considering doing a vlog on this – comment if you would watch that!

06:30 – Warm and Cold Shower

I can’t go straight into a cold shower, and I am putting off doing my first ice plunge, but I’ve gone from thirty seconds to two minutes. I have to have a four or five minute hot shower first, to get clean and psyche myself up, but then I turn the tap. Have you ever eaten or drunk something so cold that it’s given you brain freeze? Next time it happens, try putting your tongue on the roof of your mouth – it works I promise! But not when the cold is coming from the shower head above you. The only way I can handle it, is to move around and focus the water on my back, chest and shoulders when my head-freeze gets too intense to bear!

07:00 – Ready to Write

Black coffee and pint of water (sometimes with lemon) positioned to my right, laptop open in front of me, I sit down to face the blank page (Word document, you know what I mean).

Until my first coffee break at 11:00, I will now struggle to produce WORDS. Which will only come if I can answer my THOUGHTS/QUESTIONS.

  • What am I going to write about?
  • How can I make it more entertaining/enlightening?
  • Who is my ideal reader?
  • How would he/she react to that part?

I’m going to do some research today on some better questions to ask before/while writing. That could result in me having some better questions, and therefore some better writing coming out of the answers…or, it could result in 4 hours of googling and youtubing and me asking the same questions all over again tomorrow. That, would be a wasted day – and enough days spent like that, would be a wasted life.

Thank You

Thank you once again for reading, subscribing, liking and commenting! It’s much appreciated it!

This blog post is number 8 out of 10 – for the “10 blog posts in 10 days” challenge – just two more and I have met the challenge! Then it’s back to a weekly blog post, and a competition with a prize draw for subscribers (more details to follow).

The Wedge – Audiobook Review

So this morning, after acknowledging that my downward dog needs a lot of work (or sending to the farm) I tried to access the following week of the Wim Hof Fundamentals course (stress management). It was locked, meaning that I’ll be learning patience as a bonus lesson!

After some dire attempts to get more bendy and once my other exercises were done, I did a thirty minute Zwift cycle before my ninety second cold shower. During the cycle, I listened once again to this excellent book – I would highly recommend it, so here’s my review.

Summary from Scott Carney‘s website

Thrive or die: That’s the rule of evolution. Despite this brutal logic, some species have learned to survive in even the most hostile conditions. Others couldn’t—and perished. While incremental genetic adaptations hone the physiology of nearly every creature on this planet, there’s another evolutionary force that is just as important: the power of choice. In this explosive investigation into the limits of endurance, journalist Scott Carney discovers how humans can wedge control over automatic physiological responses into the breaking point between stress and biology. We can reclaim our evolutionary destiny.

Review

Journalist Scott Carney, who also wrote the New York Times bestseller, What Doesn’t Kill Us, seems to be a kindred spirit (except he doesn’t like running? What’s THAT all about?!). His sceptical approach and original goal of debunking Dutch guru Wim Hof, peaked my interest right from the start. His first book was the warts and all account of encountering Wim and his method, that humanised the Ice Man and lowered my reluctance to becoming a practitioner.

While I’m still at the beginning of my Wim Hof journey, Carney writes that it, “gave him superhuman levels of endurance and quieted a persistent autoimmune illness.”

The Wedge is about the underlying technique that can enable a person to have an edge in almost any situation.

In his latest book, Carney travels the globe in search of those who are also exploring the potential of the human mind and body. In doing so he:

  • visits a cutting-edge neuroscience laboratory at Stanford to overcome fear/anxiety
  • achieves flow states by tossing kettlebells
  • explores the benefits of heat from saunas
  • reaches transcendence through breathing routines
  • searches his mind in sensory deprivation tanks
  • hacks his mind with MDMA
  • tries ayahuasca

I really enjoyed this book, and while I’ve already start the Wim Hof Method, saunas and flotation tanks, I still have a long way to go to earn my psychonaut black belt.

“Under certain circumstances, one is actually better informed concerning the real world, if one has taken a drug than if one has not.” – Terence McKenna

I would rather do this without ingesting psychoactive substances, so I’ll experiment with some of the other methods first…but who knows…in future…maybe? You only live once, and Carney really does seem to making the most of his time here. I appreciate him sharing his experiences and experiments – it gives me ideas and encouragement to continue my own!

As this was an audiobook, I need to comment on the narrator, Scott Carney! Yes, I always appreciate the author narrating their own work – when they’re good that is – and Carney is as skilled a narrator as he is a writer.

Thank You

This is blog post number 7 out of 10, and I am really encouraged by the views I’m getting. Hopefully these will translate into some more subscribers, likes, comments, etc.

On the home front – lockdown is going well (F****** Covid-19), Wim Hoffing is going well (except the stretching – I suck – so inflexible) and writing is…well you’re reading this, but don’t expect my novel any time soon!

Procrastination cure? Not yet. Allen Carr’s Easyway need to get onto this!

Take care – be safe and well – peace.

The Wim Hof Method

“Breathe M***** F*****S!”

– Wim Hof

I hate the cold. But I love winter holidays.

This seeming paradox is easily explained by the fact that on any ski holiday I’ve been on, I’ve been wrapped up in a snow suit most of the time. If you’re really lucky, you also get to sit in thermal pools or saunas, and experience all of that beautiful scenery without any discomfort (skiing, snowboarding and apres ski hangovers aside).

So in December 2018, when after a hard treadmill session at the gym I had to have a cold shower due to a broken boiler – I was fuming. I literally swore through gritted teeth for the entire duration and I didn’t even feel clean at the end.

But whilst I was horrified at the effect of the experience on my manhood, once I got out, I felt amazing. I was glowing. So alert, so energised. So I went away and googled if there were any benefits to cold showers – other than the mythical damping of the teenage libido.

Photo by Mohan Reddy Atalu on Pexels.com

Enter Ice Man

My web search inevitably led me to Wim Hof, also know and The Ice Man, the crazy Dutch record-breaker and local celebrity. The archetypal new-age, health guru image would have repelled me were it not for his stunts and the mounting scientific evidence for his method. I needed to learn more, so over the next year or so I watched various YouTube interviews with Wim and read the following two books:

Both of these books give an insight into Wim’s tragic backstory, what’s driving him and the science behind his method – they are well worth a read! They’ll tell you what you need to know about the three pillars of the method: breathing, commitment and cold exposure. If you have any health ailments, you should look into Wim and his method – you’re probably covered! It really does seem to be a cure-all.

The Wim Hof Method Benefits

  • Stress reduction – I’m not stressed right now, but once this lockdown is over and I have to go back out into the real world, this could definitely come in handy.
  • Faster recovery from physical exertion – marathon running, triathlons, hangovers…it’s supposedly meant to make you heal like Wolverine! Count me in.
  • Better sleep – as a lifelong insomniac (maintenance, sometimes onset), this would probably be a better option than the two-glasses-of-red-wine method? Long-term I mean.
  • Improved sports performance – back to marathons and triathlons again. Could this give me that edge I need to break the three hour barrier? As an aside, the London Marathon should have been going ahead today – I feel terrible for those runners. I ran London last year (3 hr 24 mins), raising over £2000 for charity and it was an unforgettable experience. I hope they all get to experience something similar soon or run it next year!
  • Enhanced creativity – an obvious requirement for any blogger or novelist. But I’m sure creativity and resourcefulness go hand in hand, so even in everyday life, parenting, etc.
  • More focus and mental clarity – a potential cure for my procrastination?
Photo by Elly Fairytale on Pexels.com

Just like with Chi Running, I didn’t feel completely confident following the method from a book so I purchased the Wim Hof Method app, which I would recommend for the Breathing Bubble alone! Such a great tool!

Even if all of the benefits above aren’t forthcoming, I will probably continue with the breathing and the showers regardless – they just make me feel great. The breathing gets you naturally high, and the cold shower gets you wired – in a good way. So no more need for weed, beer or coffee? Number three will take me some convincing!

The Fundamentals Course

So I took the bait – hook, line and sinker – and purchased the Wim Hof Method Fundamentals Course. To be fair, I have saved money on petrol over the last month and Wim has reduced the price by 50% during the pandemic in an effort to make it affordable to the masses – so I don’t feel swindled!

I started Week One of the course this morning, and apart from the stretching – which was agony, and I sucked at – it was easy-going compared to what I have been doing already with the app. I acknowledge the stretching is important to open up the airways, and I should do some anyway, but running has made me so tight!

Photo by Elly Fairytale on Pexels.com

The breathing was just three rounds, each with a one minute breath hold, which was easy as I have already been holding my breath for up to four minutes by my fourth round, just by using the app.

The homework, was to take a thirty second cold shower, at least five days a week. Again, I’m already up to ninety seconds, most days. But I don’t want to rush through this programme in case I miss something. The slower rate of progress elsewhere will give me more time to work on my flexibility.

So each morning, I will be waking up at 04:30 and doing the yoga stretches – the hardest part for me – before I start the breathing exercises. The cold shower will be after my cardio.

I’ll keep track of any changes I experience throughout the course, and write a proper review at the end, but for now I would say GET THE APP! It is well worth a try, and the science is there – it’s not all WOO-WOO! You don’t have to use it to run marathons or climb mountains bare-chested. It might just make your day to day less painful, more enjoyable and more productive.

THANK YOU

Once again, thanks for reading this – please do subscribe, share, like and comment if you can. This is blog post 6 out of 10, and it is definitely getting easier to sit down at the laptop and tap out some words!

Have a great Sunday! Which for me means FAMILY TIME!!!

Younger You?

Apologies in advance if you arrived here in search of the fountain of youth. I’m not here to sell snake oil or beauty creams. At some point, I will blog about the benefits of a plant-based diet, intermittent fasting, quality sleep and exercise, but not yet.

Photo by Gabriela Guerino on Pexels.com

This post is about two powerful questions, the answers to which could change your life and the lives of your nearest and dearest. But rather than jump straight into the questions themselves, let me set the scene.

No Flux Capacitor Required (just an imagination…or some alcohol)

Time travel suddenly becomes possible – but only to the past I’m afraid. The other issue is, you can only send small inanimate objects back. Oh, and did I mention, only as far back as ten years. The science behind it all just gets too messy if you go back any further!

Now if you thought Royal Mail was expensive, you should see the cost of sending anything bigger than a postcard! Astronomical! Completely unaffordable – unless you’re Jeff Bezos. So that’s where we’re at.

A postcard. A pen. A portal to the past. A potentially life-improving exercise.

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

What Would You Tell Your Younger Self?

I really do want to read your answers to this question – especially if you’re older than me (unlikely) or wiser (highly probable) – that is, if you’re brave enough to share them in the comments.

I can only write about what I would tell my twenty-nine year old self, and after watching The Butterfly Effect again recently, I would be very wary about sharing too much with him. Will changing the past make things worse?

Well let’s just assume that in our hypothetical scenario, we can advise ourselves to stop any bad habits or tendencies – or to take some smarter actions – without any negative impact on what’s going well right now.

For instance, if I were to write on my postcard, “stop drinking alcohol”, I can imagine the ten years worth of the benefits I would have experienced from having made that decision, without the fear of my son never having been born. Just kidding. Hmmm.

So what would I tell me?

What do I wish at thirty-nine years old, I had been told at twenty-nine or earlier?

Think less, read and write more – when I’m following this advice I am definitely more productive and have fewer sleep problems (insomnia). But reading and writing are so energy intensive sometimes, and thinking – even the same, repetitive, negative thoughts, seems to be my default. Paralysis by analysis, my biggest flaw. Maybe if I had taken this advice more seriously ten years ago, I would have finished my novel already? Nah.

Quit the sugar – I know it’s not the most expensive or lethal white powder out there, but it’s definitely not doing me any favours. I am a sugar addict. I can take or leave meat and alcohol, abstinence is not hard, but going without an evening sugary treat actually depresses me. My evening meal is not complete without dessert – I will literally go to bed feeling hard done by. And moderation is not something I do well. Intermittent fasting has helped, with my eating cut-off time being 18:00 – but you should see the binge eating feeding frenzy I’m in at 17:59. Not pretty. My abs will retain their “hide and seek” title for as long as this habit continues.

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Quit the screens – I go from my phone, to my laptop, to my phone, to the TV and back again, all day, every day. I had four channels and a VHS player as a kid in the 1980s, so a lack of portability limited my screen time. No such ceiling these days. I deleted Facebook and Instagram from my phone in January – and lasted six weeks – and that definitely helped a bit. But when all of this Covid-19 business kicked off, FOMO took over. Apps were downloaded, my YouTube channel surfing went through the roof (Dr John Campbell and Sky New Live in particular), and I felt the sudden urge to start another blog (giving me the perfect excuse). I can always justify my next screen fix, “but I’m cycling simultaneously,” or “but it’s research for my novel.” Lockdown is hardly conducive to kicking this habit, but when I get out, oh, when I get out…

Quit buying stuff – Just before this lockdown, when the charity shops were still open, I had a clear out and donated three large black bags of “stuff”. Clothes, books, DVDs, pointless gizmos I would never have used and yet, I did not return empty handed. Three second hand books accompanied me and took their place on my bookshelf…probably to gather dust, until my next charity shop trip. The books only cost £1, but when I started to think about what the contents of those three black bags had cost me, brand new, I sighed. Stuff and lottery tickets, such a waste. Think of all the money I could have saved to invest! Invest in what? Well, I’m no FTSE expert but if I had been doing that for the last ten years I’d probably be feeling a bit down at the moment. Given the option, I would probably invest in an office/pain cave – this would be in the hope of producing 50,000 words than rather than re-enacting fifty shades (see below):

Now for some homework.

Take another postcard. Date this one, ten years hence (2030, for the non-Dickensian amongst you). Imagine this is decade-older you. What advice is this older, wiser you going to have? What pieces of advice do you want to give yourself to live by? What can you start, or stop, right now that will make it more likely you end up where you want to be in ten years?

Quit, or at least spend less time on gaming or social media?

Read more books, watch less news?

Hug more – once we’re allowed again – and criticise less?

Save more, spend less?

Listen more, talk less?

Play more, stress less?

Looking forward to your answers – share the wisdom peeps!

Thank You

Blog post 5 of 10 written and published! Wooo we’re half way there….!!!

Views are sky-rocketing (worldwide) but I’m short on likes, shares, comments and subscriptions so far. Your contributions are all appreciated.

Still learning my chops, so bear with me – but it feels good to engage my mind on a daily basis and try to put my brain farts in some sort of logical, if not literary, order.

Take care out there – get back inside, unless you were out for exercise or essentials. Check in tomorrow.

Interview Question: How Did You Spend Lockdown ’20?

Unemployment is inevitably going to be an issue for many people once this craziness comes to an end. So maybe I should be blogging about (and selling) my skills as a CV writer rather than my lack of skill as a novelist?

If I wanted to write for money, maybe that would be the way to go. Instead, I’m writing for my own amusement and hopefully your entertainment.

That said, I’ve been thinking a lot about my next interview and anticipating this question: How did you spend lockdown ’20? (hope for the best, plan for the worst – there could be a lockdown ’21).

Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

Even if it suddenly becomes taboo and email-to-HR-worthy, to ask this in the work setting, it will definitely come up at parties (muffled by a mask no doubt, if these uncomfortable social gatherings resume at all).

Here are some of my thoughts on what I would like to be able to say:

I practised Wim Hof breathing, cold showers and meditation every day – if you know nothing about Wim Hof, treat yourself to Scott Carney’s “What Doesn’t Kill You” or watch some of his YouTube interviews – he is nuts! But in the best possible way. This crazy Dutchman’s app is well worth checking out but only if you want to, in his words, FEEL STRONG M***** F*****S!

This has totally taken over what used to be my Headspace time. I just prefer the way I think and feel afterwards – and I feel like I’ve got someone else’s clothes on if I don’t start my day with these breathing exercises. I’ve got my breath hold up to over 3 minutes and after 3 rounds of this, it’s a natural high that’s also meant to bring a myriad of health and fitness benefits.

I would happily skip the cold shower – but after the first 30 seconds, the next minute is not so bad. I’m trying to use what little eating I do at the moment as an opportunity for mindfulness practice – even if I’m not logging on to Headspace. Waiting in the queue outside the supermarket is another good opportunity for this, as well as waiting for my son to finish a sentence!

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

I started a blog – started it, did a “10 blog posts in 10 days” challenge and published a blog post each week thereafter, reached 100 followers and 500 read/visits by September 2020. That alone would be a massive achievement, as long as the time invested doesn’t prevent me from doing anything else!

I wrote a novel – using the Snowflake method, tackling it little by little, step by step, getting it edited, having a cover designed, self-publishing. Developing the habits and confidence to ensure that I complete a second novel during NANOWRIMO 2020 in November. This is a gold standard, long overdue bucket list item that I need to tick off! Then I’m off to find a dolphin.

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

I home-schooled my children – I really can’t claim to have done this one, any more than Boris can claim to have led us through this pandemic. The similarities are astonishing, in that I also get a daily briefing and step in only when really needed e.g. Year 5 maths – but then need to go off by myself to recover for quite a long time afterwards.

I read, cuddled and played with my children – like the cold shower, I sometimes have to work myself up to this – I find it hard graft. My inner voice is whining, “But those rules make no sense? But that’s boring – pointless – a lot of effort.” Then I remember how much they laughed the last time, and that for them, little and often works just fine. Leaving them wanting more is inevitable, by leaving them lacking is not OK. Whether its making Tik Tok videos, playing Roblox or getting into the arctic paddling pool – it makes their day. It’s also evidence that I’m not the dad who spends all of his time in the loft writing/working – as I’m sure I’ll be labelled come their teens!

For now, I realise how lucky I am – they’re the perfect age for this situation, if there is such a thing – and they want my attention? They won’t always. They’re already old enough to occupy themselves, and soon – lockdowns permitting – they will want to be out with their friends. I don’t want any regrets on this front…family time is precious anyway, lockdown or not, so this bonus round is an AMAZING GIFT!

I made a 2019-2020 family photo album – I have a lot of time on my hands right now, and every year I aim to have the family album ready for September (but this inevitably becomes October or later). This will be our 12th family photo album and although it probably won’t feature a summer holiday, there will be some great memories inside. It’s so easy to let the days just blur into one, and have no distinguishing features – I mean, what’s the point in a weekend now? So I’m aiming to take at least one photo each day to remember the positives.

I worked from home using email and Zoom – I’ll look back fondly on the days of zero commuting and comfortably providing a service to others. So many traffic jams and painful face-to-face interactions avoided. No masks required. Money saved on fuel. So much time saved. Many people are struggling mentally and emotionally right now due to the lockdown, but I’ll be booking my counselling sessions for when I have to go back!

I built a strong aerobic base – using the Maffetone heart-rate training method (180 bpm – age) and my daily outdoor exercise allowance, I am trying to run faster and further whilst keeping my heart-rate lower than 141 bpm (beats per minute). This is supposedly going to make me a “fat-burning beast”! Unfortunately so many factors can affect your MAF progress e.g. temperature, sleep quality/quantity, alcohol consumption. I don’t have much control over the first two, but ours is currently an alcohol-free home (after I twice adjusted my definition of “alcoholic”). My next drink will be once lockdown is over, and it will be anywhere BUT a Wetherspoons pub!

I shed body fat and finally got a six pack – I’m trying intermittent fasting at the moment, which for me entails not eating before midday and stopping eating at 18:00. That means my stomach doesn’t feel full when I wake up and do my Wim Hof breathing, and my morning cardio is in a fasted state. I drink water and black coffee to get me through any hunger pains felt during the first 7.5 hours of the day.

I grew a beard – tri-colour and patchy though it may be, I love rocking this apocalypse-is-here-so-no-point-shaving look. The grey makes me feel wise, even though it’s probably more the result of “worry” than “wisdom”.

I completed several online courses – I don’t want my facial hair to be the only thing that grows throughout this period. I want to add to my CV and improve my chances of employment post-Covid-19! Maybe even change fields completely? This pause will bring a flood of career changers…so I won’t be on my own. It will give me something else to blog about once the novel is published and flying off the (Kindle equivalent of) shelves?

So there are my initial thoughts on the matter and hopefully, my answers if I’m ever asked. How will you answer? Comments please X

Thank you!

Blog post 4 of 10 – done! Tick! Like it, comment, share it…or not…your call. SUBSCRIBE though, pretty please!!!

Step 4 (Snowflake method, not AA)

Step 4: Write a Short Synopsis

I started this blog and the novel whose progress (or lack thereof) it is tracking, on Saturday 18th April, and I have been a bit preoccupied with the blogging part since completing the first 3 steps of the Snowflake Method.

I foolishly accepted a “10 blog posts in 10 days” challenge, forgetting that the blog is not supposed to be my priority. Instead this is just a way of me to gain momentum and trick myself into writing some more of the novel, once my fingers and brain have warmed up. Like going for a walk, in your running gear or “out” in your “out, out” gear.

So today I set “out” to take what I had previously written for Step 2, and expand on it until I had written a one page summary of my novel.

One page. How hard can it be? Copy and paste Step 2 and fluff it up a bit. Or so I thought.

After a delayed start to my writing day (woke up at 04:30 am, did my Wim Hof breathing, watched YouTube videos instead of going out for my morning run (DOH!), queued outside supermarket (thanks Covid-19), did some food shopping, made a green smoothie for the rest of the family, went out for the postponed run, did some push ups, etc, made coffee, had a cold shower) it was 11:00 am before I actually sat down at my desk. Better late than never!

I have to start on the hour, or the half-past. “Oh-five?” No. “Ten Fifty-Nine?” Nope. Not happening. So I started at 11 on the dot and I had just started to get warmed up when, I s**t you not, my phone rang at 11:29. I ignored it (work)…they didn’t ring back. I tried to convince myself that it couldn’t have been important if they didn’t try again. But then I couldn’t focus, because I had a vision of a career-ending email sitting in my inbox, ending with the line, “I did try to call and tell you but…”. So I logged in and checked my work inbox.

Does a tap left running freak you out? Have you ever thought about Niagra Falls? It’s still running. Right now. All that water. Night, day, rain, shine, summer, winter – even when it freezes, it’s still flowing underneath – except that one time. Well, that’s my work inbox. Ping! Ping! Ping! As I’m checking for the “tried to call you” email, I’m greeted by 20 other emails, so I start to read them and then PING! 21! PING! 22!

Thankfully none of them were the career-ender I feared, but several time consuming tasks needed to be completed so that was another 90 minutes gone.

Then it was lunch time. I promised the kids yesterday that I would go in the FREEZING COLD paddling pool with them after my omelette, as by the time I was ready to do so the day before, they were off on their screens. My son decided that the best game to play would be, “who can stay in the FREEZING COLD paddling pool the longest.” Did I mention that it was FREEZING! So half an hour later, we were still in there – numb, blue, shivering and covered in goosebumps – but none of us was planning on giving in.

Just before hypothermia set in, my wife appeared holding a parcel that had just been delivered, automatically winning my son the game as I stepped out of the pool, excited to open it. It turned out to be a cycling jersey I had won by entering a competition to suggest a title for a fellow blogger’s (tri.to.be.iron) latest post! It was a lovely top…and I felt about as worthy of wearing it as I do my wet suit! Triathlon blog posts to come, but for now lets just say I can confidently say (1) I am an OK runner (2) I don’t need inflatable arm bands and (3) I don’t need bicycle stabilisers. But having the right gear definitely gives me the urge to put in a bit more effort!

Anyway, I drifted from writing Step 4 to blogging, then I end up on the NANOWRIMO Facebook group. Do you read the rules/small print when you sign up for these things? Me neither. They should make a video instead. I’d watch that. Maybe. So I’d previously had a comment removed because it was pure, shameless self-promotion. Fair enough. My bad. But then apparently on the next post, when I typed my pseudonym on my phone and it didn’t show up blue (hyperlinked?), it DID once it appeared on the group page’s wall, triggering chaos and panic and the immediate removal of said post. Followed by a stern email from the administrator.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I was then being watched, and every comment I made was closely scrutinised. I was accused of scaring another user – LOL – the comment said “don’t use the b word” as in blog, it wasn’t a d*** pic. I’m sure I was one comment away from admin’s next warning using the word “triggered”, which would have made my day. It was like that seen from Anger Management, where everything Adam Sandler says or does is being misinterpreted as him being the aggressor. I literally looked around to see if there was a camera on me and I was being pranked. So after some genuine engagement with other users (there are some really supportive and genuinely talented writers doing NANOWRIMO – myself and the Twilight crew exempted), and me being no closer towards finishing Step 4, I stepped away.

My wife rolled her eyes at me and asked if I’d been banned yet (add them to the UK Songwriter’s Guild and McDonalds Lakeside). I told her “no” and said that I’d try harder tomorrow.

Facebook – logged off. Instagram – logged off. WordPress – keep it open on the draft of the next blog, but stop checking your bloody STATS! A watched pot…remember?

And with those actions taken, Step 4 finally took shape. Unfortunately – or maybe not – there are some serious issues with my story that need sorting out. But I guess that’s the whole point of doing it in stages like this – to realise that very thing before I waste hours and hours.

Tomorrow I will give Step 4 another go, and put my creative hat on to solve all of those plot issues. With any luck, the day will go a bit smoother. But I doubt it.

THANK YOU

This is the 3rd blog in my “10 blogs in 10 days” challenge, Thank you so much for reading, liking, commenting and sharing. Please subscribe if you haven’t done so already, and I hope to entertain you some more tomorrow.

Berlin Marathon Cancelled

So my plans to blitz this race are now kaput! It was supposed to have been my final race of the year, but its cancellation is not a complete shock in the current zeitgeist. Still, no less disappointing. September seemed so far away, and the hope was that Covid-19 would be firmly in the rear view mirror by then. Apparently not. Nein!

I wasn’t that bothered about the Paris marathon cancellation, or my sprint triathlon, or my Olympic triathlon, or even the 24 hour Spitfire Scramble…but Berlin has hit me. Like a wall.

Go ahead, you athlete-haters – you have my full permission to feel all of the schadenfreude you can muster. I am gutted.

It’s not just the cost of the flights and hotel, or letting down Prostate Cancer UK, the charity I would have been running for. It’s not even all of the training I’ve put in – because in all honesty, I hadn’t done more than my usual mileage yet. It’s more about the fact that this was supposed to be my final marathon, coinciding with my 40th birthday – a sensible age to say aufweidersein to marathon running.

I know lots of marathon runners talk about quitting straight after they’ve crossed the line (“NEVER AGAIN KAREN!”…signs up the following week for the next race), but the London marathon was a year ago and my decision still stands.

I want to swap some running time, for some writing time – so marathons are out. I’m also not convinced that marathon running is the healthiest of past times, and as much as I enjoy running long distances, I’m no spring chicken. Dr James O’Keefe’s TED Talk was also a serious wake up call.

The Original Plan

All going well with my training, I was going to break the 3-hour barrier and hang up my marathon running shoes content with a 2:59.

Achieving a 2:55 wouldn’t make me feel any better. Any faster just doesn’t excite or inspire me, so I wouldn’t enjoy the process of working towards it. For such a slight improvement, that would require far too much time and effort, I’m of the opinion that life is too short.

So on one hand, I’m looking forward to “retirement”.

No more 16 week training plans, or running too many days a week and feeling guilty if I missed a day. No more trying to stay as close to my racing weight (70 kg) as possible. For my height, you can’t even call me overweight until I hit 77 kg! POW! Bring on the bratwurst and sauerkraut! No more of those gels or glucose blocks…yuck! No more extra-early Sunday morning runs. Cosiness calls.

Retirement Plan

My retirement is by no means going to be sedentary. Yes, I want to spend more time writing, but I ‘m also planning on doing the following:

  • 30 – 60 mins of Maffetone-style, aerobic training, 3 or 4 mornings a week. Either running or on the bike, with an occasional swim.
  • Body weight strength training (air squats, push ups, pull ups, planks), 2 or 3 times a week.
  • Occasional, shorter distance races. Saturday morning Parkruns, 10km races or sprint triathlons.
  • Eat a low-carb high-fat, primarily plant-based diet, with some intermittent fasting thrown in. (SUGAR is my only weakness. I can take or leave alcohol and meat – blog post pending – the struggle is real).
  • Sleep as much as my body needs, and monkey mind will allow (INSOMNIA blog post pending), generally 6-8 hours a night.

I’ll Be Back? (F*** it, Austria’s close enough)

I feel a certain amount of angst about calling it a day with regards to marathon running. Forty is the new thirty after all and the following facts still remain:

Still stuff in the basement – I’m 99.8% certain I could go sub-3 to qualify for the Boston marathon and 99.9% certain that I’d regret not having tried.

Gene Dykes – 70 years old and still setting PBs!?! Who says it’s all downhill at 40 years old?!

Family and friends – I know too many people still involved in racing, and I have rubber arms. It doesn’t take much to convince me to enter a race or take on a challenge.

We shall see.

This by the way is the 2nd blog post of the “10 in 10 days, blog post challenge”. If I make it to number 10, I’ll go back to a weekly blog post! Hopefully the next blog will be on Step 4 of the Snowflake Method, I’ve been sidetracked with trying to convince readers to like, comment, share and follow the blog! The fact that anyone is reading this is still something I’m grateful for, so I’m indebted to all of you going the extra mile.

Danke shon. Aufweidersein!

#LONDONREALARMY

I may be asked to take this down, so read it quickly!!!

Some of my favourite ways to p…put off what I should be doing (making a committed effort not to use the “p” word) include:

Reading – but technically, you can’t be a writer if you’re not a reader, so that’s not a problem until it becomes excessive. Anyway, I use that age-old time-hack of listening to audiobooks while I’m commuting or training.

Films/TV – guilty, but I’ve limited this to the TV I watch with my wife, or my kids. I rarely watch TV on my own unless I’m also running on a treadmill, cycling using my turbo with Zwift.

Podcasts/Vlogs – and these may be my biggest time sink. There’s nothing better to ease the pain of hours on a treadmill or bike than listening to/watching Joe Rogan, Tim Ferris, Jocko Willink, Sam Harriss, Peter Attia, Russell Brand, Rich Roll, Floris Gierman, Tom Bilyeu and of course, London Real.

Photo by The Teens Network Daytime Show Studios on Pexels.com

I won’t tell you that I watch every episode – there are a lot of repeat guests on each show – but there are some episodes that I’ve watched more than once (Elon Musk getting stoned!?! WTF! James Wilks – Black Belt in Forest Plots…LMFAO!), so it balances out!

Why watch or listen to all of these podcasts? Because, I want to be educated not just entertained…although many of them tick both boxes. I won’t waste time going through my critiques of each, none of them are perfectly produced, none of them are perfect hosts, and none of them have 100% quality guests EVERY TIME. But their hit rate is good enough to keep me returning, to hear a variety of different ideas, theories, life hacks and perspectives on life and the world.

I love listening to the debates on diet with Rhonda Patrick, Peter Attia, Tim Noakes to name just a few – and the James Wilks Rogan interview where he is given the opportunity to respond to criticism of his fantastic documentary “The Game Changers” is EPIC!

The podcast episode was great, not because I enjoyed watching Wilks’s thinly veiled aggression, or the other guy squirm and retract his criticism, but because he was given the opportunity to say what he believed to be true and why. He backed up everything he said with evidence – there may be evidence to the contrary – but the fact that studies exist providing support for both sides means that it’s open for debate.

As much as I would love to believe that sugar is good for me and will do me no harm – the scientific evidence (and personal experience…skinny fat mean anything to ya?) points to the contrary. If Tate and Lyle release a study which goes counter to the wealth of other evidence out there, I will do my best to eye that research with scepticism. Promise.

Can you say, “Flat Earth?”

Now I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, and yet I’m grounded enough to make my own mind up. By “my own mind” I obviously mean what the latest peer-reviewed research that’s not tainted by industry sponsorship says.

So when some nutter tells me the Queen’s a lizard…I take it with a pinch of salt. Same thing with flat-Earthers, moon landings, virgins, be they miraculously pregnant or…well, let’s not even go there. Seriously? Each to their own – no disrespect – maybe it just hasn’t been explained clearly enough to me?

But…

…let’s just take a hypothetical situation.

Person A does something naughty, like stealing person B’s lunch.

Person C says, “Hey, Person B – did you see that? Person A just…”

Before Person C can finish, Person A does everything in his power to:

a) prevent Person C from telling Person B

b) prevent Person B from learning about it any other way.

Well what if we’re all Person B? I f***ing hope not! But what if we are?

I want to believe that “masks don’t work, so there’s no point in wearing them,” and not that “actually they do work to prevent you spreading stuff if you’re asymptomatic, but we haven’t got enough for the NHS so…”.

I want to believe that the people leading us know what they’re doing and that they’re not purely motivated by financial gain or myopic progress. Surely they wouldn’t jeopardise our health? We work (usually) and pay their salaries…we vote for them (or not).

I want to believe (I’d rather be Hank Moody than Fox Mulder though).

Suggestion

Once this whole Covid-19 business is behind us, the medical advisers and political decision makers are going to have a lot to answer for in some cases – worldwide. Some countries more than others, but wherever you look, there are faces and names accountable for those decisions. Just like James Wilks standing by his documentary.

Where are the scientists battling this out with David Icke, point by point. Where is his Joe Rogan episode to come back, point by point, forest plots and all? I think accountability is all that’s lacking here, and the powers that be should sort it out before I lose internet connection because of some lunatic, and I can’t watch any more “Too Hot To Handle”.

Verdict

Eamon Holmes – free-thinker? Definitely not one of the sheep. It’s open minds that get us to the moon or Mars, that discover DNA or the Higgs Boson, evolution or “the growth mindset”. But I suppose like school teachers, policeman, politicians and religious leaders, that free mind is something you should keep to yourself – if you want to keep working. Think what you want, but don’t tell anyone else…just like mast….MASTS, that’s what I was talking about…or getting to anyway!

David Icke – Nutter? Time will tell. If the science checks out, knock your one-from-each-pair-where-do-they-go? socks off . In the meantime, leave the f***ing masts alone!

I love the UK – because unlike China, we do have free speech…I think.

God bless you UK. God bless you Queen Liz.

Peace.