From the journals

Messy adventures and tidy lives

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The best adventures are messy – ragged around the edges, unpredictable, loose, fluid. They seem to stand far removed from the hum-drum of normal life, as they cry of freedom and craziness, of excitement and surprises.

But those adventures are out of reach for those of us who stand rooted in the hum-drum of normal life. Which is most of us. We will never get to taste the freedom, the craziness or excitement they offer, or experience the surprises they hold.

No, far from enjoying the wonder of adventure first-hand, those of us grounded in normality must satisfy our longings for adventure vicariously – through novels, or movies, or news reports and editorials of the achievements of others. Because, if movies, novels and newsreels are to be believed, adventures – especially the messy kind – are the sole domain of the real risk-takers – the action heroes and crazy fools who hold no regard for rules and order – the brave and reckless who live in the moment, with a sense of abandon for the future.

But movies and novels do not align with reality, and newsreels only give glimpses, at best, of how real life works.

You see, whatever movies or novels may suggest, a life filled with adventure – a life that colours outside the lines and walks the undiscovered paths – is not borne out of hedonism, or a sense of carpe-diem, or from chaos, recklessness, or a willingness to throw yourself on the mercy of chance with no regard for your own safety. No, a life of adventure is borne out of intention and purpose, making room for the unexpected, and embracing the unknown. A life filled with adventure flows out of order.

And that applies to every adventure, no matter how small, or how epic – whether it’s tackling Everest, the Inca Trail or the Vendee Globe, discovering new lands or populations, building an enterprise out of nothing, or taking a new direction in work, or in study, the outcome, and the shape, of that adventure rests on the foundation from which the journey began.

And so you have the paradox.

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Channel your inner salmon

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“Just go with the flow, man.” It’s the battle cry of hipsters, the mantra of the ‘spiritual’ and the ‘enlightened’. Going with the flow is the cool way to live. Maybe, if you believe the hype, it’s actually the only way to approach life.

Why get worked up? Why stress? Why strive? Why struggle? Just go where life takes you. Chill out. Relax. What will be will be.

Of course what will be will be. If you let it. If you let it, what will be can’t be anything other than what it will be.

But why would you let it?

Why would you allow the course of your life – the path of your adventure – to be guided by chance, taking you to some unknown destination that is not of your choosing?

But, more importantly, why would you choose to deny the world the gifts and talents deep inside you, that are only ever brought to the surface by your stresses, your strivings and your struggles? Because that’s what you do when you ‘go with the flow’ – you deny the world around you the opportunity to receive all that you have to offer.

Sure, there may be times when tracking with the currents of life, rather than swimming against them, is the smart choice. But those times are simply interludes – spaces in which you can hide while you catch your breath for what comes next.

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I wrote a post, but this isn’t it

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About a week ago, I sat down and wrote a post. A shouty, ranty, pissed off kind of post.

But this isn’t it.

I felt like I had my reasons for being shouty and ranty. It’s been a tough few months. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s been a shitty few months. Really shitty. So shitty, in fact, that I finally had enough, and, with Limp Bizkit’s ‘Break Stuff’ blaring in the background, let rip in my journal. A proper spleen-venting session, releasing months of pent-up anger, frustration and disappointment.

And, as my spleen vented, and my fingers pounded the keys, the irony of having spent that day launching a new programme about managing your self-talk – mastering your inner voice so that your negative soundtrack stays firmly in its box – was not lost on me. Nor was the hypocrisy.

But, no matter how ironic, or hypocritical, the battle I was having with my self-talk undoubtedly was, I could not shake the soundtrack blaring in my mind.

A soundtrack that told me I was a failure.

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We are all just syllables

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We are all connected.  Nothing exists in isolation.  Yet so many revolutionaries end up on a lonely path, jaded from the knock-backs, let-downs and battle-scars, convinced that this thing that is ready to burst out of their soul must stand alone.  But the problem with that lonely path is that it skews your reality.

I’ve walked that lonely path and experienced that skewed reality.  I’d reached a point where I was so focused, so single-minded and blinkered in my approach, that it no longer bothered me that we couldn’t get the backing for our revolution, or build the team we needed, because I was going to change the world, by myself, if it killed me.  I truly believed that my life was a self-contained book – a story written in its own right.

But that belief – that my life was a self-contained book – was arrogant.

The day I realised just how arrogant that belief was, I found myself deeply, deeply humbled.  That day, I realised that, while taken in isolation my life is a self contained story, life cannot, and does not, exist in isolation.  I realised that, taken in a cosmic context, not only is my life not a book in its own right, it isn’t even a chapter in a book.  In fact, it isn’t even a page in a chapter – not even a paragraph on a page, or a sentence in a paragraph, or even a word in a sentence.

My life is merely a syllable.

Now, here’s the thing with syllables – taken in isolation, they are meaningless and, in the context of the whole – a word, or a sentence – they are often imperceptible.  Yet, as seemingly insignificant or imperceptible as a syllable may appear, they are vital to the meaning of the word, the sentence, and the story.

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Find your middle

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Do you spend time wondering if you’re making the right decision, or if you’re in the right place, or if it’s the right time?  I do.

Or, at least I did.

You see, I’ve become convinced that there is no right decision, right place or right time.  Instead, there’s a ‘sweet spot’ – your ‘middle’.

Your ‘middle’ is not about the decision you make, the location or the timing.  It’s all about alignment – aligning your activity with your strengths, skills and passions.

The significance of this hit me when I was chatting with my buddy, Steve.

Steve makes a ruckus wherever he goes.  He’s pioneered a ton of stuff.   He’s inspired others to make a ruckus and to pioneer new things.  And he’s enjoyed some real success.  But now he’s starting a new venture.  And, as he was sharing his ideas and how they lined up with his vision, I realised how Steve’s new venture aligned with his passions, his strengths and his skills in a way the other stuff he had been doing hadn’t.

He was moving into his sweet spot – he was finding his ‘middle’.

I got very excited.

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