From the journals

Ripples

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I’m a pretty confident guy, and I’m not short on self-belief.

Most of the time.

But, sometimes, in quiet, private moments, I sit and ask myself just who the hell I think I am: who am I kidding to think that I can change the world?

Do you have those moments, too?  If you do, and I’m guessing you probably do, you’ll know that in those quiet, private moments it’s easy to convince yourself that you are a nobody, to compare yourself to the real revolutionaries who are making a real difference in the world.  Who are you when compared to Richard Branson, or Blake Mycoskie, or Aung San Soo Yi, or Bob Geldof, or Bono?

But, frankly, why should it matter how you compare to Bono, or to anyone else for that matter?

The reason it seems to matter how you compare, and, for that matter. how your revolution compares, is that we have been conditioned to a vocabulary that espouses a message of ‘bigger is better’.  Words and phrases like ‘create something epic‘, ‘do something amazing‘, ‘be awesome‘ and ‘make a commotion‘ can make you feel that, unless what you are doing is grand and bold enough to be worthy of retweeting, or sharing, or giving a plus-one – or, to put it another way, unless it’s like something Richard Branson might do –  what’s the point?

But, what if I told you that it isn’t scale or size that makes something epic.  Or amazing or awesome.  Or a prerequisite to making a commotion?

What if I told you bigger is not always better?

What if I told you that impact in the world isn’t measured in retweets, shares, plus ones and the size of your mailing list?

What if I told you that what you are doing is epic?

What if I told you that the revolution you are creating is not just amazing, but heroic?

What if I told you that you are awesome, and you are making a commotion?

Well, forget ‘what if’.  I am telling you that.

And you can forget those objections you are about to start throwing at me – the ones about how I’ve got it all wrong, how I’ve confused you with someone else, and mistaken what you are creating for something that really will change the world.  Because I haven’t confused you, or what you are creating, with anyone, or anything else.

You see, however insignificant or irrelevant you may feel your revolution is, you are doing it.  For you, it’s not just a fleeting idea – a brief encounter with what could be – for you, this is an adventure into what should be.

And that puts you in the small band of misfits who, in spite of everything stacked against them, and in the full knowledge that they are not a Richard Branson, or Blake Mycoskie, or Aung San Soo Yi, or Bob Geldof, or Bono, still get on and do.  

And that is epic.

You see, when you get on and do, like you are, even when it feels like you are barely making a dent, you change the world.

When you get on and do, you create a disturbance in the status quo, and nothing is ever the same again.  And, whether that disturbance is the equivalent of a ‘nine’ on the Richter scale, or a barely perceptible tremor, matters not.  The fact remains, you upset the balance – you sent out ripples.

And you can have no idea just what impact those ripples you send out will have, or how far they will reach.

For example, in 2007, believing we had absolutely failed to achieve anything through our not inconsiderable efforts, we closed a charity that we had started four years earlier.  But, three years later, a group inspired by the work we had done, picked it up and, even today, are still doing it.

Ripples.

And, often, the i58 team work with people who just don’t seem to get any benefit from our input, leaving us wondering if we failed them.  But, months after their programme with us has finished, they say how much it helped them take important steps to kick their drug habit, or got a job, or find some stability.

Ripples.

It’s not about the numbers – how many lives you change, how much money you raise, how many units you ship – it’s about making ripples.  And, however inadequate, under-resourced or ill-prepared you feel, you can – no, you are – making ripples.

So forget comparing yourself to others, or measuring your project in terms of retweets, shares, plus ones, or the size of your mailing list.  Just keep doing your thing – sending out ripples – and you will change the world.

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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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