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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:



welcome to the temporary autonomous zone

Whacko philosopher Hakim Bey (whose stuff I love by the way) coined the very useful idea of the TAZ- temporary autonomous zone. The idea is that freedom only really exists in things on the move or sited someplace temporarily. You can see the gist: we've gone from cultures with plenty of common land to places where every inch is owned and policed, kind of; much of it with scary but often ineffective CCTV cameras. Ah, I can feel my PQ (paranoia quotient) rising! There's the clue: a lot of this stuff is all in the mind. I keep having to recall the 'licence fallacy'- broadly speaking people who make their own cars find the easiest part getting them licenced for the road (because inspectors sympathise and are interested in their projects) yet the uninformed always assume 'the red tape' is the hardest part of the project- the deal killer- when it isn't. I have to remind myself that but I too set up a business in Egypt when I would have been scared to in the UK because of my imagined ideas about red tape. Of course ballsy real businessmen just plough on regardless, and, compared to Europe I understand few places are as easy to start businesses as the UK. But those implanted ideas are strong. A friend who settled in Australia recently told me 'The UK just doesn't have an entrepeneurial feel'. Hmm- more negativity we just don't need. But the grain of truth refuses to be silenced, and, it turns up in the idea of the TAZ and walking.

A long distance walk is a perfect temporary autonomous zone. You stop when and where you like. No one has tabs on you. You can convene meetings around the campfire. Your spirits rise. Long distance walking festivals could be the next big thing now that festivals are becoming a little too pricey, a little too corralled.

When I lived in Tokyo in the 1990s every year on halloween night, a train on the yamanote circle line would be commandeered for a moving party. Maybe there could be a Pennine Way festival, or better, a Southern Upland Way festival. The idea being that it keeps on moving- even if you join it half way along you have to walk to keep up with the party.


fishing with Harry

Loved fishing classic by Tony Baws- Fishing With Harry.


Relinquish the Boss Position


You get on a plane. You aren’t the boss, especially if you fly cattle class or on Easy jet. You have to relinquish the boss position to the pilot and his hated minions. But, hey, it’s only for a flight. 

As people get older they get to liking the feeling of being in control, or being 'the boss'. They assume, wrongly, that it is 'being the boss' that has got them where they are. Actually being treated as if you are the boss is a by product of age, wealth and skill. And skill is related to learning power not boss power.

Boss power feels good though. So it's not surprising that as people get older they start to fear what might happen when they relinquish the boss position. 

People who are the big bosses at work are sometimes, strangely, better at relinquishing boss power than people who are midway in the pecking order. In order to get to the very top they've had to learn a thing or two. And to have your eyes wide open to learn you have to relinquish, at that moment, the knee-jerk need to be the boss. 

Writers are often the very worst at relinquishing the boss position. In their mind, because of their facility with words and arguments, they are always in the right and always ‘the winner’. If they are dissed or insulted, they make a very convincing case, to themselves, for the ignorance and cretinism of the attacker. If they are bested in public in an argument they go home and write it out, getting the better of everyone. Lots of the best fiction is driven by this kind of wish fulfilment. Jane Austen. Ian Fleming. Patrick O Brien.

In fact, the more inept at doing things in everyday life the writer is, the more likely he is to be a super hero in his own mind, such are the subtle side effects of refusing to relinquish the boss position.

On training weekends with executives you find it is often the bosses (medium not big bosses) who screw up the most. This is good for morale, but bad for the boss’s ego. You see, they are all in a new situation but the underlings are used to relinquishing boss power. When they do this their brain is freed up to see WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON. But the boss is so used to appearing the boss, and fearful of what might happen if he doesn’t appear the boss, that he doesn’t listen and screws up. On a raft trip for executives, lead by a friend of mine, the boss suddenly leapt out of the raft onto a rock. He did this midstream because he panicked though he called it ‘an executive decision’, ie. he had to act the boss, even if it was a dumb move. The others stayed in the raft because they could SEE WHAT WAS REALLY GOING ON. (And rescuing the boss took the rest of the day...)

On desert trips, Nile dwelling Egyptians are often the best people to take. They know how to relinquish being the boss (even though they do use too much water). Brits and Germans are worse. They’re always asking when the next stop is, how far the next oasis is. They see less and learn less because they can’t relinquish the boss position.

It’s only for a few minutes. Or a few days. In the West, for some reason, we are obsessed by dominate or be dominated. But you don’t need to ‘dominate’ if you can see what is REALLY GOING ON. Which you can- if you kick back, observe and listen, and relinquish the boss position.

Learning is about observing, about paying attention. ‘Paying’ is an appropriate word because it will cost you. The cost is the computing power of your brain. When you have a ‘boss position’ head on you’re using up masses of computing power just operating that head. It’s not a ‘learning head’.

Strangely the same is true of being ‘humble’. Being ‘humble’ uses up computing power so there is none left over to learn. I know because I studied for a long time in Japan acting ‘humble’ to the Japanese Aikido teachers. Bowing and scraping and not realising that all that is not an end in itself, but simply a mechanism, designed in the past, to help you relinquish the boss position. So that you CAN SEE WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON and therefore learn something. Except I was so busy hoping to get recognition for all my bowing and scraping I was actually the slowest learner in the group.

When we say that someone is humble we usually mean they are good at acting submissively. But that is not the same as relinquishing the boss position. Acting submissively means relinquishing not just the power to tell others what to do, but also the power to act without permission. But when we relinquish the boss position we retain the power to act without permission, because that is part and parcel of retaining the power to SEE what is really going on.

There is also the other peculiarly British thing where you say “I am not the boss here, but neither is anyone else.” In other words you become a kind of policeman making sure no one ‘gets above themselves’. Brits do this with aggressive mocking humour usually and it’s a rather effective way a dominant person can dominate without appearing to. But who cares? If someone wants to be the boss see where that goes, see what is really going on, maybe it doesn’t matter. Being a policeman uses up a lot of computing power too.

But just as one should be able to relinquish being the boss, one should be able to embrace it too. Kids don’t want their teacher to admit his doubts about the education system, they want to learn how to spell. If a group on an expedition is about to walk over a cliff they need a boss to tell them it's dangerous, they don’t need a discussion group.

Relinquishing the boss position doesn’t just mean relinquishing the power to tell other what to do. It means relinquishing the knee-jerk reaction to self-justify, to be ‘in the right’; it means giving up the need ‘to have an answer’, giving up the need to feel the best, the best informed, the ‘one who is really right’. It doesn’t mean you have to feel like you are a dunce, or someone in error. All you have to do is slide yourself into neutral, engage outwardly, direct your attention outward and admit to yourself OK, maybe I don’t have all the answers, but let’s see, all the same, what is really going on here.




death in valencia

I am thoroughly enjoying Death in Valencia by Jason Webster. His Max Camara detective novels set in Valencia just keep getting better and better. One that will be worth its weight when packed in the rucksack by anyone with a long walk in mind -and the great opportunities for reading long distance walking offers- somehow when you're out of doors all day you have so much more time...


manufacturing microadventures


If your job involves going out into the world and doing stuff you probably encounter a fair few microadventures each week. This gives life texture, things to talk about and slows time down. But many of us live lives where not that much happens. As a writer- which is what I do most of the time these days- I can have a very nice satisfying day getting my words done, but then I look back on the weeks and think- what happened? Anyone in a reasonably rewarding but outwardly uneventful job probably feels the same. Hence our attraction to jobs that supply microadventures automatically- paramedic, policeman, tree surgeon, nurse, priest, investigative journalist- all these bring lots of microadventures home without any effort seeking them.

We sometimes think that activity is the answer, and take up a sport. But what could be duller than the life of a professional sportsman (Michael Phelps lives a life that makes a desert anchorite look like an action hero)?

The confusion is natural. A dull but inwardly satisfying life is weighted towards the yin end of the spectrum. Activity and adventure are both yang. We look for balance and lunge for whatever yang stuff is on offer.

Though activity may lead to adventure it doesn’t guarantee it. Take running v. walking. When we run it seems more manly and yangish but actually a walk through unknown terrain will harvest many more microadventures.

And I suggest there is an inner nutritional component to adventure that is beyond the lower division into yin and yang. Adventure, I think, is best characterised as microadventure (to get us away from the Bear Grylls requirement that eating a raw frog whilst jet skiing across lake Titicaca is a necessary component of any adventure) indeed I’ve found that any big adventure is simply lots of microadventures piled on top of each other, usually in a remote location which adds glamour of course, but doesn’t really alter the nutritional value.

Making something out of nothing is one of our uniquely human defining characteristics. People who make us laugh or can take something overlooked or discarded and turn it into something beautiful or useful- these are the people being ‘most human’, certainly in one meaningful sense of the word. So it is with a microadventure- it’s making an adventure out of nothing, or not much. All you need to do is stretch things a bit, reframe stuff, be just a tiny bit creative.

Instead of just going on the same old country walk, look on the map for some strange feature and design a walk around it, or go for a walk in an area that was the backdrop to a novel or a film. The actual microadventure won’t be this act of creative spin, rather the spin sets things spinning and then the microadventure happens. I often search out hills that look like stone age encampments on the map. Then when I’m there the microadventure might be finding flint tools or maybe just lighting a fire and making a cup of tea in a novel setting. But it helps to have a bit of spin before you go.

One way to add spin is dice travelling. Throw a dice to decide your route and mode of transport and watch the microadventures pile up. Another is to keep a note of any weird places that crop up in your reading- then visit them. I recently heard about a ghost town in Western Australia that has gone from a population of 7000 to 12- and I know that’ll be sufficient spin for a microadventure if I get to visit there. Closer to home I’ve noticed that after heavy rains the weirs on tiny streams near my house- streams you can’t usually kayak- become raging torrents for a day or two- definitely a microadventure to be had there. Or write to someone you admire and set up an interview- I did this for a 95 year old explorer- Rupert Harding Newman – and the stories he told during that encounter definitely ranked as a microadventure.

A microadventure is a combination of new stimulation filtered through the way you look at the world. In other words, once you have the microadventure ‘hat’ on you’ll start having them, you’ll start seeing them coming.  It’s something you tell as a story or an anecdote. It’s an experience that generates a new insight.

What is the inner nutrition of the microadventure? Have a few and then think about it.



why we walk


When we walk there are other benefits apart from the brutally systemic ones of doing miles and ticking off days. If long distance walking, as a model of a successful enterprise, is to have any resonance beyond the soundbite and the catchphrase, one has to excavate deeper into its lasting appeal. So, one walks for:


And, similar, but not the same: exercise

The effect on the mind.

Adventure- pure adventure albeit not of a very dangerous kind.

Fresh air.

Wild animal watching.

Making fires and living in a simplified way- not to be underestimated.

I won’t deal with these in any order, partly as a counterweight to the urgent tone, which sometimes has to be adopted, of the self-help text. But those moments of urgency can benefit from a few meanders, just as, from a kayaker’s point of view, rapids benefit from periods of slack water for recovery and preparation for the next onslaught.

The effect on the mind. This has to be a centrally important part of the whole enterprise, indeed, it explains partly the addiction many show to walking. Old heroin addicts reformed take to ticking off Munros, each 3000 foot peak the healthful equivalent of a syringe of dope. There is no question that sustained walking beyond the merely nominal 45 minute stroll, builds up a complex mental state bordering on a mild euphoria. I say complex because it is more complex than a predictable hit. One never really goes walking simply to get the hit, but one is mildly disappointed when one doesn’t. Weather has something to do with it, light and views also. A walk through woods can be an exercise in ecstasy if the woods are, perhaps, ancient and gnarled beeches, but close packed firs or sycamores dripping a rain storm that ended hours ago can be simply depressing, unnerving even.

And then, when walking, all rumination seems positive, getting somewhere, unlike when we are sitting down and pondering when thoughts tend to spiral in and pile up, clogging everything up. Not for nothing is this condition of introspection known as ‘satan’s intestines’.

But walking thoughts aren’t like that. You can think things through, if the walk is long enough. You can certainly gain perspective, zooming out and seeing it’s just a hill of beans after all.

When I do long distance walks I sleep less and awake refreshed, partly because, I am sure, the act of walking and thinking attains the state of meditation. It fulfils the role of dreaming, reordering the mind’s contents in a beneficial way. I know I feel as if things are sorted, decks cleaned, ready to get on with something new.

You can go years circling stale old thoughts, thoughts that hold you back. A long distance walk is one way to break free from all this.




gamify self-doubt on the path to success


Before any big undertaking, any new project, business or artistic endeavor we start asking ourselves questions. Will I stay the course? Have I got enough stick-to-it-ness? Have I enough energy? Am I smart enough? Am I talented enough? Is it ‘my thing’? Can I learn fast enough?

The questions pile up and pretty soon they can overwhelm you. A safer option is to give up your ambitious plan. Carry on as normal, doing nothing very much.

What happens is you give up before you’ve even started, before you’ve faced even one REAL obstacle. People ask why aren’t you doing what you announced a few days ago so blithely in the pub? You feel a little foolish. You find it hard to explain because it looks like what it is: you gave up before you started because you got overwhelmed by self-doubt.

In fact self-doubt is a useful tool but a lethal weapon.

You use it as a tool when you want to come up with OBSTACLES to progress. Self-doubt is fear fuelled creativity. You try and think of every possible thing that can go wrong- the self-doubt tool will supply the answers. You make a list of all the OBSTACLES and next to them a list of all the WAYS you’ll overcome them, using normal creativity in this instance.

However, when self-doubt is given free reign, without control, it becomes a lethal weapon. It’ll kill any project stone dead. So self-doubt must be handled with extreme caution and used as a powerful directed beam to illuminate OBSTACLES in your way.

I keep capitalising OBSTACLES because when you walk your way to success, identifying and overcoming OBSTACLES is a key procedure.

We are brought up to believe that we need to add stuff to achieve our aims, and the more we add, kind of like video game merits, gold, or juice, the more chance we have of succeeding.

But the reality is the opposite. Having posited a goal we want to achieve we then start REMOVING things in our way. We start identifying obstacles and creatively finding a way round each one.

There are several reasons why this works better than the conventional ‘adding stuff’ method. First we harness self-doubt instead of being crippled by it or wasting psychic energy fighting it. Second we employ creativity to imagine OBSTACLES before they arise. We have a battleplan ready to hand, having visualised our path to success.

Performance coaches know that the more accurate the visualisation the more impact it has on improving skills. In a University of Chicago study, basketball players were divided into three groups for free throw training. The first group practised free throws an hour a day. The second group did no training and the third group simply visualised free throws an hour a day- with no real practise. After a month the people who really practised showed a 24% improvement. The people who didn’t practise showed no improvement. But the people who simply visualised making successful free throws showed a 23% improvement – without having visited a gym or touched a ball.

OBSTACLES are first overcome in our heads. Using controlled self-doubt we generate a realistic visualisation of the obstacle, then using creativity we visualise how to overcome it. Then, in the real world, we do just that.

Let’s get practical: before a long distance walk you’ll be assailed by self doubt. What if I get injured? What if I get blisters? How will I get water? Where will I camp? What if my gear is too heavy? What if I don’t do enough miles each day?

First you halt this process and turn it on its head. Gamify it by trying to come up with as many OBSTACLES to your ultimate success as you can. Even silly ones.

Then identify a way to overcome each obstacle. On my first big walk I had these obstacles: 1. Not enough money to complete walk by staying in manned mountain huts 2. Pack too heavy to make enough miles each day 3. Boots that worked in training but bit into my achilles in the mountains.

Any one of these could have been a show stopper. On previous attempts at long distance walks I'd been finished by much smaller obstacles even than these. Stuff as basic as big blisters, not being able to make a fire or running out of food. This time would be different. So I needed to think my round each obstacle in turn. Not enough money was solved by staying in unmanned huts or sleeping under a flysheet I carried. My heavy pack was reduced by chucking out an inner tent, cutting the top off my sleeping bag, ditching all clothes except shorts, thermals, two shirts, spare underwear, a fleece and shell gear. The boot problem was solved by biting the bullet and hitching into the nearest town and buying the cheapest pair of boots that fitted properly. Simple solutions when tackled one at a time, but overwhelming if faced all at once.

A long distance walk is a scale model of an attempt at anything a bit difficult, a bit out of your comfort zone. The obstacles on a long walk are easy to identify and fix. By long distance walking you build the skill of obstacle fixing. Use that skill to identify the harder problems of real life. If you find yourself - with your project, business or artistic endeavor- becoming overwhelmed, think of it like a long walk, one step at a time. Visualise a path that leads from NOW to success and identify each obstacle in turn.

You want to identify the obstacles (OK I think we’ve enough caps for now) before you start. You will then generate a path from start to finish. When you have a path in your mind, the path to success- you really will achieve it.

Before any project that seems daunting tell yourself it’s just a case of identifying what is in the way, what is stopping you, what is holding you back. When all obstacles have been identified and overcome in your mind the path is clear- you can safely assume you will succeed.

To achieve success- in a long distance walk- or anything else- you need to assume success – then act it out in real life.