mixed feelings

Today I have a couple of things on my mind. As I write this, itÕs friday and IÕm not working today. I have started to think about the project I mentioned a couple of days ago in the motivation piece and IÕve realised that the initial surge of enthusiasm has started to wear off and has been replaced with a only a couple of points of concern for me about how I should continue.

One of them is copyright. The material I am working from is highly subject to copyright issues and as such I may well be incredibly restricted to use or refer to it. While I am still driven to create the content I want to create, the impending problem of having it struck from the internet at a stroke is not very helpful when it comes to the idea of making a living from this sort of thing. Yes, I have an ulterior motive – I want to be able to make money doing hard work – is that so bad?

The other issue is my lack of note gathering experience. I never went to university, and as such I never really built up the skill of gathering notes on content as an addendum to learning. I will have to build the skill as I go which means I may well end up redrafting early content as I go and the skills improve.

As I started with, the initial enthusiasm has worn off, but not so much that I consider abandoning the project altogether. By going through this, I will pick up a number of valuable skills and a qualification with the potential to earn money so I have an opportunity that I canÕt really turn down.

Even as I typed that, I had a sinking feeling that I will abandon the project as fast as I start it. That is not something I want to do – obviously – and as such this is the sort of test I want to build up my mental endurance. The way to achieve success in this type of thing is to simply stick at it. IÕve managed 277 days of writing 500 words a day – irrespective of the quality – and I want to be able to draw a parallel between that and achieving other tasks. I wrote several months ago that the difference was that the writing I did then was not public, so it could be as poor quality as I liked and I wouldnÕt have to think about it. Now that it is public, IÕm not terribly sure that the quality has improved measurably (although I am thinking about it more), but I am no more convinced that it is linked to continuous productivity elsewhere.

IÕm getting my messages mixed up here. I am trying to create that Ôstick to itÕ skill, and writing publicly, I thought, would be a stepping stone. IÕm not very sure that this is the case.

I will soldier on. I have an inkling of interest in this project, still, and I have the tools I need to take notes. I have identified a step where something can go wrong – the actual condensing of notes into a publishable form, rather than putting them to one side and telling myself IÕll do them later – and if I can maintain progress and keep on doing all the tasks I need to do to make this work in parallel, then IÕll be good.


In less than a weeks’ time I turn 44 years old. I’d like to point out right now that this is not an impassioned plea for presents. I’m not going to put a link to my ~~Amazon Wishlist~~ here.

Over the last few years, I’ve started to realise that getting old is a real thing, and the body changes. I make noises when I sit down. I’m always looking for a place to sit down. My knees hurt sometimes. I have ringing in my ears occasionally. I am beginning to reminisce about the way things were. I was never particularly nostalgic, but I catch myself occasionally donning the rose tinted spectacles and thinking back to days gone by when things were simpler and easier. I’m not in any hurry to rush back to those days, mind you – a distinct lack of internet would make it a tad difficult for me to keep myself entertained.

I am, I think, firmly approaching the territory of middle age. I suppose I would never want to admit I am actually middle aged, but I suppose at some point I just have to give in to inevitability. When I was younger, middle aged was when a person reached their forties; now I am pushing that definition back to the fifties, but that milestone is still only six years away. Never mind, I’ll be well on my way to millionairehood by then.

It’s funny how the feeling of getting old changes dramatically depending on your perspective. My sense of oncoming age is brought about more by the physical differences – the hearing, knees, hair in ears syndrome – rather than an internal sense of ageing. If you were to ask my subconscious, it would swear blind that I was about eighteen but had a massive amount of experience and memories to draw from. Nevertheless, my subconscious can’t ignore the fact that the eighteen year old it thinks it is, has a spare tyre and can’t jog up stairs as easily as it expects to be able to.

In a post like this, where I address productivity issues, or getting better after an illness, or being more determined to do better at a thing (hence the mini torrent of writing every day), I’d look to come up with a plan for improvement, but of course I can’t do that with old age, I just have to grin and bear the wispy hair and crinkling skin, the irritability and temporary deafness, the creaking knees and expanding waistline, the failing eyes and the ability to simply sit and stare into the distance for ages. I also get cold easily.

The benefits of being middle aged is that one is expected to have disposable income at this point; If I were like some friends, I would be in the position that my children would be grown up by now and ready to fly the nest, and I would have a life of a paid off mortgage, cruises, and a mercedes benz parked in the garage. But, because I like to do things differently, I am a father to a newborn, and I am discovering that life as a 44 year old new dad is pushing my energy levels to new lows every day.

Please note that despite all this, I cannot complain. I have a good life, the experiences that mean I am unlikely to make catastrophic mistakes, and the love of a beautiful woman and our beautiful little boy. I may be old, and getting older, but I am a happy man.


It’s funny how motivation can strike you in different ways. I am suddenly taken with a burst of motivation for a new project, and at the moment the motivation is bleeding off into other things too – not that it’s diminishing the optimism I have about the new project, but it seems to be growing. I can give myself a few minutes every now and then to research an aspect of the new project, or record a series of (organised) notes about the new project, and it spurs me on to get going on my other things and daily work too.

This is a good feeling.

It’s been a while since I’ve felt motivated about a personal project, over and above the initial surge of enthusiasm. I hope that this feeling stays, but based on previous experience I have to be mindful of the potential for this enthusiasm to fade away after a couple of days once the project starts to grip and the workload starts to bite. I think this one helps because I actually have a reason to do it that is associated with the adoption of a skill, the skill will benefit me throughout my life, and the acquisition of the skill is not one that is trivial. I also understand the principles of the skill and so am more confident that I can build a solid platform for disseminating what I learn to other people.

I’m trying not to break into details about this project because I’m mindful of not overcommitting. There is a balance to be struck between going on about something and overcommitting myself into revealing too much and getting carried away about what I am capable of delivering. I want to be able to ship this project. I want to be able to make sure that this is something that happens and I make sue I make the most of my enthusiasm and have enough grit and determination to actually deliver the thing when it turns from a fun idea into a hard project. The skill that I am learning is one that I have wanted to learn for several years – almost a decade, in fact – and as such I well know that I have started several times over and abandoned the idea when it turned into something too hard to learn.

There are multiple ways of dealing with this – I fervently believe at this point that the process of not only learning, but building a set of tutorials around what I learn, will help me fix the knowledge more firmly in my mind – thus ensuring that I maintain the level of knowledge without losing interest because I forget things as fast as I learn them – and by building tutorials I will actually be able to teach others and help them, so building a useful resource in the future. It essentially hinges on the fact that I want to learn this anyway, and I’ll be able to maintain this momentum when the going gets tough.

Small business

A few years ago I owned a small business. Well, I say I owned it, what I actually did was register a company name, have business cards printed, set up a website, print flyers, and attend a couple of local networking events, but do you know what arose from that?

Unsurprisingly, not much.

I learnt a lot about myself over those three months – a time when I was between jobs, having been made redundant thanks to the crash of a Building Schools for the Future marketplace and yet to be offered a job at an IT company. I had decided that I should tap into all that lucrative consultant moolah just at the worst point, when the market was suddenly flooded with thousands of people with exactly the same skill set as me. Sadly, I had also decided that my animal magnetism was sufficient to draw in all the customers like magic and I could simply spend a little time pretending I was working on finding business, when in fact, I was kidding myself.

I managed to get up early and go to networking breakfasts, and even had a couple of conversations with people who were all desperately trying to sell me services I neither wanted or could afford, and the arrival of another unconnected newbie in their midst did not do much for their prospect of raising business. In fact, as I write this, I recall two different networking meetings – one which was tiny and clearly trying to get itself started, and the other a massive monopoly that shut me out after three sessions for being in direct conflict with another on the group.

Looking back, they were probably right. I wasn’t prepared for that life at all.

The lesson I learned from that little episode in my life was that preparing to strike out on your own takes a lot more than getting business cards printed. I still have those business cards, and they are very nice. I never earned enough to cover those, never mind all the other bits I had acquired. I still have a box of leaflets in the attic that I haven’t thrown away yet. No, the life of a self driven consultant is one of being constantly hungry for new business and being able to dive right out without a safety net, something I was never all that good at. I have a friend who is, and as a result he is constantly turning new opportunities down, and earns considerably more than I suspect I ever will.

Still, I have learnt that my place in life is surrounded by others. As much as I do want to do something productive with my life besides the day job, I must reluctantly admit that the execution of my many ideas has absolutely non existent, and I can’t claim to be the type who doesn’t have ideas. This blogging experiment – the 30 days of posts – is to get me more comfortable with the feeling of public writing and the need to create something every day. If it sparks an idea in me, then great – but right now, it’s simply a healthy distraction from the feeling that I should really be doing something else.


There’s a lot to be said for being humble. Let’s just define what I mean by humble – because it has a lot of different connotations depending how arrogant you are.

I define humble as not being arrogant. How’s that for a circular argument? OK, let’s start again; I think that being humble is associated with a number of other qualities – being quietly spoken and certain of your position in life, showing confidence but not overly so, being polite and considerate to others, regardless of their behaviour around you or those you love, showing respect to others whether or not they have earned it, avoiding bragging and acknowledging others’ help in achieving your successes.

A lot of internet fame and fortune is, in my eyes, bought at the expense of others. To be humble doesn’t mean that you don’t celebrate your successes , far from it – you do so with obvious happiness but in doing so you celebrate with those around you, showing them you appreciate the role they played in your success. Before you think you are capable of doing everything on your own, think again. I’m writing this on a laptop which was manufactured for me by another company, comprised of thousands of hard working people who work together to make a product I know and love. The laptop runs an operating system that has been continually revised to make sure it’s cutting edge and these upgrades have been provided for free.

I use publishing software which is free, run on a server which is incredibly cheap as a result of others working hard to consolidate their purchasing and configuration power into making servers fast, cheap and accessible. Anything I write on this site which is popular (eventually, I hope) had sprung out of my mind but the only way I can get it to you, dear reader, is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Everything I do in my day to day life is based on the actions of others, and I am at pains to make sure that they know that. I can create whole new streams of business at work, but the trust the customers place is not just in me, but the reputation that has been built by many others before me. I define humbleness as the core part of my being because it grounds me and makes me aware of my place in the world. Through this, I can stand tall and be confident, knowing that in doing so I have a team of people around me that are supportive of me as I am of them.

I can go home and be loved even when I am ill and cranky, my son will fall asleep in my arms because I offer him a warm and comfortable place to be that he can trust, and when he falls asleep I know that my role in life is complete.

Being humble, to me, is about offering support, warmth and love to others before I seize it all for myself. It’s about being aware that I am one of many people, and together we define what happens in this world.

I know just when to do things

I have been struggling with productivity today, because my jaw is aching and my teeth are bleeding and I feel tired and grouchy and oh for god’s sake just leave me alone!

This is the best time to get something done. Funnily enough, I had just that thought when I was moping about the house and it has led me into writing todays’ post (I’m writing this on Sunday for posting later on in the queued series I have built up). I felt like crap and I wanted to lie down on the sofa, despite the fact that I knew I was just feeling sorry for myself. I took this as my cue for getting up, grabbing my mac and just starting to type.

These sorts of inspirations don’t lend themselves to easy editing later on, but as I’m mentioned earlier, I don’t tend to edit these posts – I just leave them where they stand as markers of my writing ability at the time that I threw them together. For me right now, the writing is the important thing. I must keep going on at the ability to sit down at a laptop keyboard and type, even when it feels like my mind is empty and I just can’t think of anything to keep me going.

I suffer really badly with ‘put it off until tomorrow’ syndrome – otherwise known as blatant procrastination. I have a wealth of thinking on the reasons and have tried multiple ways of dealing with it, but ultimately it does all come down to simply getting up and doing the thing that you have been putting off. There’s an argument for having a bunch of tracker tools and reminders to keep you in the zone – and I certainly have a wealth of those – but there is no replacement for just getting up and doing the work. That’s why I am plugging on now, writing this, when I should really go back and check the work and the quality of what I’m writing, instead of letting it just spill out of my mind and onto the page.

The desire to stop, go back, and revise as I write is another thing that has to be avoided as much as the desire to not get up and do the thing that you are supposed to be doing right now – the voice that causes doubts, or gives you alternate things to do when you know you should be concentrating on the thing that is important to you. Seth Godin put it brilliantly when he has described it several times as the lizard brain. The Lizard brain is the neanderthal mind and reaction to challenging things that causes you to stop and crawl back into your cave – just do nothing.

All of us have this, it’s just our ability to ignore it that is stronger in some rather than others. I have a particularly weak ability to do it and I use a variety of tools to get me up and get me going, and ignore the lizard brains’ cries to go back and edit and revise and do something else altogether that is an awful lot easier.

I won’t go into them now. I’ve just managed to blast out 500 plus words, my target for the day, by simply keeping my head down and writing. My apologies if it’s all garbage, but it’s been produced in the face of wanting to do something else so it stays.

One week in

One week ago I decided to take the 500 words a day that I was writing for myself, and make them public. One week later, I’ve found a change in the way I write and what I write about.

Whereas before I wrote for the Day One app that I used to store all my daily notes, now I find myself writing for the web; and although I am not consciously editing my work, I am taking a little more care with the stuff I write.

I must say that I am a long way away from full blown editing of the written pieces and this shows in some of the content I’ve written. I have found that I am more willing to write content in advance – and in some instances I have felt inspired enough that I have written huge chunks in one go and given myself the time to edit it later. This is a blessed relief as I had two teeth taken out on friday, and it’s not been easy to cope with the continual bleeding and discomfort, which is sadly a natural part of having teeth removed when you’re on warfarin.

But, back to the point. I have considered what I’m actually achieving by writing 500 words a day, and so far the only reason I can come up with is that it’s a worthwhile exercise – a commitment that shows I can do regular work and not bow to the temptation to avoid it, or put it off.

It’s amazing what building up a commitment streak can do to your desire to keep writing; I’m amazed that I have managed to continue to churn out such volume over such an extended period. More so now that I am publishing this stuff on the web.

My original commitment was to build up the habit, and now it’s to sharpen my prose. When I started this a week ago, I had no idea if I were capable of writing decent quality words everyday, but so far I have surprised myself. I can only imagine (and hope) that my writing gets better over time. Still, the writing has to result in the means to an end. Despite all the projects I have promised myself would get off the ground once I have managed a better writing style, I have not yet done anything with them – it’s hard to say why at this point, other than just blame it all on procrastination, which sometimes feels like a handy excuse.

I’m still searching for the thing that I can do that gives me a sense of purpose outside of the normal work environment. I find it a little sad that I haven’t managed to locate it yet, despite quite a few years of searching; of course the thing I am looking for might well be there already and is sitting in the pile of great ideas waiting for me to shine the light of my attention on it. I really hope so.

While I enjoy my writing, that fact that I have to set myself a writing streak simply to do the words every day is a sign that I might not be as committed to the projects as well as I thought.


I write this in the waiting room of my dentists surgery, gripped with fear and quite frankly terrified. I’m about to have a wisdom tooth removed and two fillings.

This post will show both sides of the fear as I am unlikely to have this finished before I am called into the surgery.

Even as I write this on my phone, I’m finding myself distracted and drawn away by other things – my brain is desperately trying not to think of what is coming up next, so I am unwittingly diving off into mental tangents all the time. For example, that series of leaflets over there on charges? Fascinating. Instructions on sneezing safely? Really important. There are a host of wall mounted posters here that are constantly dragging me away.

My relationship with fear is, well, not easily explainable. I have had far worse healthcare treatment in the past that lasted longer and undoubtedly was considerably more painful, but of course I know that after the fact – I remember how bloody scared I was before that started, but a week in it was old hat.

Rationally, I know that this will be exactly the same way. I can’t help, however, imagining all sorts of horror stories that will occur to me in that chair. I find it funny that despite my age and my life experiences, I still manage to be terrified about new things.

It’s the new things that scare me – the new experiences, good or bad. I have had trepidation about the smallest things – meeting new people, taking on new responsibilities – a host of new things that always, without fail, end up to be trivial and not worth the worry.

I am writing this second half of five hundred words several hours after the dentist has finished with me. As I suspected, I was not wracked with pain or had my teeth mangled, so I should be able to face it in the future without concern. The tone of this writing may well have changed from the first part not least because I am now full of painkillers, which have tended to give me a different perspective on life; funny how codeine can do that to you – but that’s a different story.

Have I got a new perspective on fear now? Well, you’d think that I would, having just seen both sides of the coin in a single day. But, sadly, not. I am still well aware that if I were to be put back into the same position I was this morning, even with the knowledge that I have now, I would be just as scared and just as worried. Dealing with fear isn’t something that simply goes away – we are scared for a reason and I’m not one of those people who can simply rationalise it away.

I’ve been scared of treatment before, and that’s for good reason. The fear I experience when contemplating meeting new people or putting my writing on the line for public consumption doesn’t come with such a good reason, but it’s no more easily explained away.

Memories revisited

I wrote yesterdays’ piece entirely off the top of my head, with few edits, and sadly it shows a little. It’s not quite as clear and well written as I would like, but the point of the 30 day exercise is to encourage greater volumes of public writing to make me more relaxed about it – but to what end result, I don’t know yet. The journey is the destination at present.

Although it was written while I was inspired by Matt Gemmells’ piece – his work, obviously, is better quality – I have a different motive. I wrote it because I am scared of losing my memory. The writing was an exercise in recollection; could I, while writing, recall scenes from my childhood? Apparently I can, but as the character in the piece got more and more frustrated, so did I. My recollection of my childhood is exactly as it was written – disjointed, unconnected, and a series of pictures with the occasional associated burst of sound or emotion.

I’m 43 now. I’ve been through a horrible illness, and had other experiences that any normal grown man would be able to recognise, but the one thing that strikes fear and terror into my heart is the loss of memory. I’m not talking about the temporary loss of a particular experience – I’ve had a few I’m keen to forget – but that sudden realisation that a whole chunk of my past has gone missing, or even worse that it’s gone missing and I never know that it’s gone.

Over the years I’ve built a series of systems to hold up my creaking memory. A scaffold, if you will. It requires rigid maintenance and suffers badly if I’ve been lax. I place things by the door if I want to remember them, or pile them up around the things I need to leave the house – like my keys. I live by my to-do lists in Omnifocus and Asana and have to come to terms with the need to record everything I need to do in these systems, or they will disappear. My inbox and assorted folders are carefully organised to take away the need to remember where important data is stored and let muscle memory take over. I store every work email in carefully sorted nested folders. Search and audit trails are my personal religion.

This rigid adherence to systems, in order to support my failing memory, can be a burden. I adopt semblances of OCD when preparing for a day to come. I get pedantic and unsettled if my chain of events to prepare for the next day is broken or interrupted. I will scold myself relentlessly if I find out I have forgotten to do a simple task. My wife is thankfully tolerant of my need to record tasks the moment they are assigned – she knows by now that if I take a task without recording it, it will disappear like dust after mere minutes, and sometimes I can deny all knowledge of being told it in the first place.

And as if by magic, we return to the core of todays’ post. It’s that last sentence that captures all that I am scared of. I can be told something and not only forget what I was told, but forget that I was told it at all. It’s as if the event of the telling never happened, or happened to someone else. The fact that this happens to me – and can happen at any moment – is the pinnacle of my fear. If the scope of this forgetting were to expand, I would likely not know it was happening to me and before long all that is ‘I’ would erode with it.

I have no idea how common this is or how foolish I may seem by being scared of it. I’m wary of doing the research in case it tells me what I don’t want to know. Instead I write about it, and hope that exposing my fear to the cold light of day will cause it to disappear as easily as that instruction to empty the kitchen bin.


(Todays’ post was inspired by the piece ‘Relative‘ written by Matt Gemmell.)

He sits across the table from you, holding a stack of pictures which he soundlessly fans across the surface. They loosely scatter like leaves, each one showing a unique image. Here’s a small boy, smiling shyly into the camera and wearing his first holy communion outfit. Another shows children with fear etched into their faces as they run from a hail of rocks. This one is a shiny new bike, wheeled into the living room. As you look at this one you can see the owner of the pictures relax his face, as if smiling inside and remembering the moment.

He spreads his open hands across the tabletop and moves all the pictures around, in the manner of a cheap childrens’ party magician trying to distract your attention. Have more pictures been added? It’s hard to tell. They feel dense, somehow – this isn’t a collection of leaves any more as it is more a sense of mush. You realise that some of the pictures don’t have clean edges, they are ripped and torn and worn out. His hand sharpens into a pointing finger and glides across the table tapping one picture after another. Sitting upright in bed and puking. The curl of another childs’ hand around their Atari 2600 controller, a loose collection of kids and bikes wearing seventies flares and swarming down the centre of a road. The devilish gleam in a young boys eye as he prepares to lie down in the middle of an occasionally busy road. A young boy and a younger girl huddled together on a staircase in the dark, looking scared.

If you raise your head and try to catch his gaze, he will look fleetingly at you before returning his concentration to the tabletop. His hand moves from one picture to another, sometimes pointing one out, sometimes picking one up and holding it for a moment as if trying to remember the moment that the picture captures. When he does this, his brow furrows slightly with the effort of recollection.

An air of desperation creeps into the room. He doesn’t make a sound, but looks more and more frustrated as he picks up and discards images seemingly at random, faster and faster. He doesn’t seem to be looking for anything in particular, but even so a thread slowly emerges – the discarded pictures pile up at one side of the table, with new ones stacking on top to resemble a kids flick book – those ones you recall as a child with hundreds of stick figures taking on animation as the pages are flicked between the fingers. The pile of pictures builds. The child is getting older.

Look at the stack – there are gaps. Years get added on in the blink of an eye. Groups of pictures concentrate on one event, as if that carries emotional weight. Apart from the similarity of our subject, there doesn’t seem to be any consistency; the images leap from night to day, sun to shade, happy to sad. The boy becomes a man, and the pictures blur and fade for a while, then sharpen again.

His hands stop. They clench into fists and rise as if to strike the table, but then pause and relax. He looks up and away, then carelessly sweeps all the pictures to the floor. Before you can ask what he was looking for, he turns and is gone.