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"Loving micromastery. Clever concept, well executed." Tim Harford.

"Micromastery is a triumph. A brilliant idea, utterly convincing, and superbly carried through." Philip Pullman.



Go and get it from a bookshop.

Or Buy online! Micromastery - learn small, learn fast and find the hidden path to happiness is published by Penguin books (UK) in May 2017. It will be published in China, Taiwan, USA, Germany and South Korea in the months after that.

You can get it at Wordery- click below

Or for those amazon junkies click this one:



tactics and strategy

Tactics is how you win a battle.

Strategy is how you win a war.

Grand Strategy is how you implement what you want after the war is over.

These terms can have other meanings but I like the idea that Grand Strategy could also mean an overall approach to life, a bigger aim, a super long term goal, a reason for being; anything in fact that is one's real and perhaps even embarrassing motivation. Or lack of it. Lots of people have 'being confused' as their grand strategy.


walk your way to happiness and success


Walk your way to happiness...and success...I did. For years I got nowhere with any of my projects then I started long distance walking because walking was one thing I knew, that I, along with most of the human race, could do. My first big walk was the Pyrenees, coast to coast, about 700km following a meandering route through the mountains. It took six weeks and at the end I had to hitch back through France with no money. But I had succeeded- what's more I now had a success template I could apply to any enterprise that followed.

It's not rocket science- in fact it's the very opposite - so simple anyone can do it.

I've written many articles and seven books about my adventures: on this site you'll find lots of useful information derived from 'walking your way to happiness...and success'.



Higher Intelligence and the Decisive Point

In conversation with my good friend Richard Mohun he drew my attention to the idea of the Decisive Point. Popularised by Clauswitz the military strategist and writer, the Decisive Point is the place and time in a battle where you should strike with all your force at the right moment. It's rather like the skill of the diamond cutter, who may spend weeks looking at a diamond deciding the Decisive Point to strike with his hammer. Get it wrong and you have a neat pile of diamond dust, get it right and you have a well cut diamond.

When descending rapids each rapid has a way through it- a decisive point you have to hit at the right time and place. Get it wrong and you capsize.

Battles, rivers, diamonds- what about everyday life? Well we get better, or should do, at knowing when to deploy our energies and how much of them to deploy. You learn when to rest and when to work full on- something I didn't discover until I studied aikido full time.

One can look for the decisive point in any enterprise. There may not be only one, but looking at least heightens the awareness that life is not static and linear but dynamic and strangely curved. As Nelson said, "You can't plan a fight. But you can plan to fight." And during that fight you need to spot the breakthrough moment, the decisive point...back to fighting again, probably because a battle resembles any enterprise, but speeded up and more interesting. I'll try and think of something more pacific- writing a book. For years I never managed to get past a few chapters- until I realised, hardly in a concious way, that the decisive point was not writing when you had time to write, or something to 'communicate' but actually setting aside large amounts of time with nothing else competing for your attention over a long enough period that a book became almost inevitable.

On another tack learning any physical skill that isn't entirely obvious- be it making fire with a bow drill or climbing a rope - involves identifying the decisive point when an unusual effort of co-ordination must be made. If you miss this, then it doesn't matter how heroic the rest of the effort is.

So another candidate for higher intelligence is the ability to spot and act upon the decisive point. I think I'll start looking for them.


higher intelligence

There is highly intelligent and higher intelligence. One form higher intelligence takes is foresight. Who doesn't know a highly intelligent person, who, lacking foresight, suffers accordingly? But, being highly intelligent they are able to convince you their lack of foresight was the least of their problems...


hard core walking

Here is a picture of me reclining against a tree during a hard core walk.

What makes it hard core is not the place- Dorset, nor the magnitude of the walk- four or five hours, but the attitude. For a start, in the foreground you may see the trusty M-kettle- which was fired up to provide a nice cup of tea. My pal Aaron then whipped out his F1 gas stove and saucepan and fried up some bangers- all before 9.30am! You see hard core walking is all about kit, taking it easy and brew ups. The brewing up is most important. Just walking from A to B past some half decent scenery just doesn't cut it. You have to make a deviation off the path, find a good spot and brew up some tea. Preferably over an open fire but using a stove of some sort if farmers/landowners are on the prowl. One should then attempt something that results in aiming for a landmark or other interesting feature (we climbed an interesting shaped hill called Colmer's Knob) without using the map or a signposted path. It's good if you see a buzzard or two, too, or, as in our case, a field that had been turfed over by a wild boar (no sign of boar, never is).

Taking along kit that needs to be tested or shown off is also important. There is a limit to how much kit you can carry which means you do not need to exercise any self control over walking gear. If you want to lift your rucksack you will by default have to limit yourself. Today I used a rather natty mora steel knife. Aaron also cut himself a walking stick using my folding saw- lovely bit of kit that. Talking about kit is also a nice part of a hardcore walk, though unless you talk to yourself, naturally limited to walks with other people.

You see walkers out in all the right gear but are they stopping, brewing up and lovingly handling their kit like some kid with a new meccano set at Christmas? If not, they are not hardcore. You don't need to get kit new or full price- in fact getting everything used or on ebay is more fun and cheaper too. But no one should be deprived of the basic human instinct to hoard.

Walking? Oh you do a bit of that too. In between the brews, the poking around in thickets looking for things, the getting a bit lost (map- forget it- well we did). Yes, a good day all round.


predicting the future etc

Predicting new technology is one thing, but predicting our response to it is another. It is based on how well you know human beings and how well you know their current OQ- the OQ is their ‘openess quotient’. It’s a convenient concept that nevertheless relates to something very real and very useful: the width of someone’s experience-acceptance angle of vision. Some people have tunnel vision. Some cultures encourage it- conformist cultures, though they aren't necessarily the obvious ones that spring to mind. It is sensible to avoid condemning non-western cultures here- they may have a wider range than we have. They may be open to traditional ideas that work (a fact post-enlightenment western people have only just worked out) as well as super modern ideas or bits of technology- India and Egypt both come to mind here.

How wide is someone acceptance range, what are they ‘blind’ to? Apocryphal but useful stories relate south sea islanders inability to ‘see’ James Cooke’s ship because it was ‘too big’. Even if this is nonsense the idea is true- we are blind to some stuff right in front of our noses. The blindness takes the form of saying “oh yeah- but that’s irrelevant’. In other words it's not a failure of optic nerves it’s a failure to give the thing seen its due significance and importance.

All sports training is about getting the would-be athlete to focus on the perhaps boring process that produces the significant improvement and avoiding the often more interesting process that produces no improvement. In aikido stance is pretty much everything- but that is a sterile concept to the newbie. So all kinds of interesting stuff is worked up to make this boring truth available and digestible and what is most important, seen and felt to be REALLY important.

George Polya the mathematician wrote that most failures to get on with solving a problem are due to lack of interest, above inability everytime. Interest, motivation- these are the gold dust of the education process.

If there is a trend operating right now, I would say it is an expanding OQ. Though children may read less, they are exposed to a wider variety of concepts. Pre- starwars the bench mark of heroism was Robin Hood or some lion hearted Crusader, post starwars we have Yoda influenced ‘warriorness’- this is not meant to be a precise cultural history, merely pointing up the way popular culture is now fed by what were unacceptable fringe interests in mystical religion.

With increasing OQ there is a new factor involved in working out how new things will be accepted. Some things won’t be. The idea that all new high-technology is good is already a dated concept. The word luddite has less teeth in a world that approves sustainable solutions and appropriate technology, a world where traditional solutions are increasingly appreciated.

But perhaps more importantly, what’s your OQ? Are you getting more open to things as you get older or getting more closed? I suspect that unless you make a careful decision to keep expanding your breadth of vision, it will, of its own accord, start to diminish.


Listening to the two inner voices

 Often we don’t know what to do. And often there is no one to ask, or, no one else who knows what to do. How do we decide?

There are some good rules of thumb- list pros and cons, weight them for long and short term, try and arrive at your core requirements and write them down so you don’t forget them.

One of my favourites- if you can’t decide between two courses of action then it doesn’t matter- toss a coin.

But these are just rules of thumb- what you’re ultimately aiming for is an inner voice you can rely on.

There is one inner voice we know all too well- the nag, the guilt-voice, the non-stop inner driveller. This voice comes on when we haven't enough to do, or when the stakes are too low. How do you distinguish this voice from the real one that is of some use? 

You have to start by learning to ignore all guilt, all inner nagging, all uncontrolled verbiage, all worry. You can allow yourself an hour a day as 'worry hour' if you start getting withdrawl symptoms. Use your 'impartial spectator' to merely note the verbal flow and then let it go. Stuff like: "another thought about money", "another regret about time passing by", "another guilt twinge about not sending a birthday card to your best friend". After five minutes of such noting you'll find this inner voice loses confidence. You're not taking it as seriously as it wants to be taken. It starts to disappear, fade away. Needs practise though.

Eventually its quiet enough for the real inner voice to emerge. This speaks to you in feelings, inclinations, rarely in words. It's the voice of hunches, sudden ideas that come from nowhere.

Stuntmen, extreme sportsmen and even lowly car drivers rely on hunches, feelings, a little voice- telling them whether something is risky or not. 

It works particulary well in extreme areas because any kind of self-obfuscation or conning is punished very heavily. If you lie to yourself about how good you are at climbing you’ll fall.

In an extreme area a lot of the shit of everyday life: being in a rush, greed, routine- are banished- or should be. When I fell off a rock face aged 19 and fractured my back in two places it was because I had ignored my inner voice and let gross competitiveness silence it. It was at the end of the day and I wanted to get off the crags and have a cup of tea. My climbing partner wanted to do one more climb. It got competitive and I pushed myself too hard showing off- and fell 35 feet without a rope.

Later when I drove vans for a living while living in London I found that it was all too easy to lose concentration and have an accident. After several minor crashes I realised that these accidents always happened when I was ‘not really there, distracted or a bit dopey’. So before each journey I’d self check- if I felt a bit out of it I would make a routine of putting on my seat belt which worked to make me pay extra attention, be unusually vigilant. If I felt cool I drove without the seatbelt (legal in a van I might add!). This simple method meant I had no more crashes while working everyday in a hectic city.

So, the inner voice, hunch, call it what you like does work- and is all too easily silenced. But how do you tune into in everyday life as well as during extreme sports?

Back to polishing the mirror- the impartial spectator. When we get better at noting what is really going on and then leaving it we get better at silencing noise. Less noise and we hear the voice. But even then you can wilfully ignore it- which is what is meant by leaving the path.

Addiction will cause you to gatecrash your way past the inner voice even if it’s screaming. Minor addictions to food or major ones to nicotine or booze- all of them will provide ‘good reasons’ to ignore the inner hunch or message.

Unreasoning fear, too, can drown it out. Even fear for a loved one’s life.

Guilt will, too. In fact the ‘inner voice’ of guilt is often confused with the real one. How do you tell them apart? Not easy. Needs practise.

Then, once you’ve used the inner voice a few times- and going on a walk through unfamiliar terrain is a great way to test it. Simply trust your instincts when there is something you are not sure about or doesn’t seem obvious. Because greed and fear should be absent (no one route or course of action is obviously loaded in such circumstances) then you can get used to relying on hunches.

By working on improving the impartial spectator and running more and more of the day through following the inclinations of the inner voice you’ll find you are progressing.

I’ve tried it on gambling and the lottery but, not surprisingly it doesn’t work. Too much greed involved.