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Is this a nightmare or an adventure? Sometimes it's a fine line. The more prepared you are the more likely you can treat it as an adventure, it's like wearing a different pair of glasses that admit more light because you are no longer scared and apprehensive.

Instead of being scared you can actually learn, improve, develop. Steep learning curves are where it is at, and steep learning curves are to be found some way out of your comfort zone...

The adventurer seeks new challenges- which is when we are most open to learning. Recent research into brain growth shows we are most receptive and our memory best when a situation is novel, shocking or we are deeply focused. Better still if we 'into it', then our brains really suck up what we are trying to learn. Anecdotal evidence of this abounds- the child who can't learn a single maths equation but has hundreds of jokes and pop lyrics off by heart- because they are not 'into maths'.

I'm a writer by trade and this blog is here to pass on some of what I have learned through adventure, travel, life and writing. It has 500+ articles relating to travel, personal development, adventure, smarter thinking, mastery, polymathy, and writing. 

Much of the blog entries spin off from the 10 books I have written, all available at Amazon among other places. 


get it done for free

On the London underground railway system you may notice the thin yellow line that is about a metre or so from the track at each station. The safety line. It isn’t in every station though, or at least not visibly, as they get worn out from passengers walking over them.

They also cost London Underground an incredible £1000 sterling to repaint. Yep, a single line of yellow, one brush width thick, maybe 200 metres long max. A thousand quid. You could live on that in Egypt for a year.

Of course it’s insane…but factor in the special ‘accounting’, the time, the materials, the admin…and you get a grand.

Fact is- you could ask two passengers if they fancied doing it for free- maybe in return you give them a week’s free travel or something.

That isn’t going to happen. But it does reveal something interesting. Money, which is supposed to make things more efficient, can, in a big organisation make them less efficient and less likely to happen.

Money is very efficient for buying things like newspapers and sweets and restaurant meals. Can’t imagine gifting or bartering taking over there. But money is less efficient when you have services that are hard to cost, together with SPARE CAPACITY. This is a result of the incredibly abundant world we live in. We have empty cars standing everywhere, empty woodland not being used for anything except as an investment, empty houses visited only in the holidays, people with incredible skills playing with the Xbox instead of doing fun stuff with friends that may also be called ‘work’ if looked at in another way. Hey- I can imagine painting that thin yellow line with some of my good friends and having great fun doing it.

When I belonged to a martial arts club I found an incredible mix of people whose skills were on offer to friends. Clubs and social groups can work like that. So can the internet. Now you can search the world for someone willing to do it for free plus the something extra- what I mean is- the great feeling of doing something worthwhile with worthwhile people. It could simply be the chance to actually learn something in return for doing a task of some kind or lend some land or equipment for some purpose and learn something in return. Or maybe it’s just about being of assistance to a worthwhile project. Or just having fun: most 'work' is made to be far more dreary than it needs to be.

I think it makes sense to look at all the ways you can do what you want to do for no money at all, or very little. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes money is the ultimate toolkit, but I think we live in an over-monetised world. Years ago I heard of someone charging a friend because the friend wanted to store luggage at their house…well you can sympathise both ways- houses are small these days at the same time what are friends for? The interesting thing is different from the opinion you may have: the fact is we can monetise renting a cupboard. We can monetise buying a meal- which is impossible for many, even now, indigenous people living in isolated spots to comprehend- for them you just give food when someone is hungry.

Monetisation of absolutely everything has led to thrombosis in many businesses- take the film business in the US- you need, because of union regs and company practices, a crew of people who only work so many hours and only do certain jobs etc etc. In reality to make most films you actually need only three people- camera, sound and director- and everyone should be able to do everyone else’s job if necessary. When a good friend of mine- actually an animator by trade- was filming a big film in the US recently he offered to run a distance of about 3km (across a piece of wilderness) to get something- if he hadn’t they would have waited all day for a helicopter to do the job- no kidding.

The kind of films that get made have to be blockbusters because of the ridiculous costs involved. The same trend is apparent in TV and publishing. Firms have such high costs they need mega sellers to succeed.

Insane. That thin yellow line is there for a purpose. To remind us to be careful and not get hit by a moving train. Paint your own line. Get out of the way of the trainwreck which is modern ‘efficient’ business practice.

Before you lifeshift or engage on a new and maybe costly project think of the Amish people building a great barn in a day and rewarding everyone who helped with a big party at the end.

Harnessing the power of the longtail, of friends, and friends of friends, to getting and giving free help and resources has to be the way forward. Hand the paint brush to someone with a smile, get that thin yellow line done for free!



I don't have enough time

How many times have I heard this? “I don’t have enough time to read books.” “I don’t have enough time to write my novel”. “I don’t have enough time to start a business.” “I don’t have enough time!!!!”

All wrong. You never lack time, you lack energy. Remember as a kid those summer days that stretched away forever? You had more energy then. Seems like time just flies by? Why? You have less energy now and do less ‘new’ stuff and more boring repetitive stuff like going to work and getting drunk.

When you learn something new there is always loads of time- an hour set aside to learn ancient greek- I guarantee that hour will NOT fly by. And when you look back on a year and say- I learnt this and this- it doesn’t seem like it flew by at all. Likewise if you make trips throughout the year you ‘slow’ time down through the expenditure of energy in doing new things.

You never lack time, you lack energy. You work for twelve hours at a desk not moving except to get coffee and go to meetings- are your surprised you lack energy in the evening? Especially because then you thrash yourself at the gym and drink a couple of beers in front of the latest hot TV series which you own on dvd. What better way to dissipate your energies than giving it away?

You never lack time, you lack energy. As you get older you have more commitments and more responsibilities. These take energy- but probably not that much if you corral and marshall how you expend it. You can also build energy- primarily by breaking down mental barriers. One way of energising yourself is to talk like a complete prat (watch Tom Green’s ‘Who fingered Freddy’ if you want lessons in pratdom) in front of people who won’t hold it against you- you family and your closest friends. We are so used to exercising control over what we say- not lying, not boasting and not fantasising that taking the brakes off releases a ton of energy. I think it’s worthwhile to start ‘big whopper’ clubs where the idea of the evening is to tell obvious big whoppers all evening. Nothing subtle at all. Great fun.

You never lack time you lack energy. We dribble away energy in a thousand ways. We have routines that take energy from us, we have habitual encounters we have decided we ‘hate’ and these also rob us of energy. Learn to spy the energy vampires and pirates who lurk out there just waiting to grab your precious vitality.

You never lack time you lack energy. Energy is not like money- which is a kind of temporal substitute for energy- energy belongs to the ‘realer world’ of abundance. The more energy you give, the more you get. Ever wondered what that mysterious parable of the talents meant? Exactly this: the more you give the more you get. OK try this: next time you go to a party talk in a really loud cheerful voice. Boom it out. Watch successful school teachers- they all have loud voices- for a very good reason- the more you give out the more energy you’ll get. Energy somehow flows back to fill the space vacated- AS LONG AS IT WAS GIVEN AWAY CONSCIOUSLY- and not squandered or stolen.

You never lack time you lack energy. Remember that time when you were a teenager. Lying on the sofa feeling you could hardly move, hardly even answer the ringing phone? But you do- party at a mate’s house- hey suddenly you have a million volts running through your body. Tiredness is not the opposite of energy- sleep is. If you are sleepy- after doing some kind of physical exercise- this being the test because we con ourselves too easily otherwise- so do five minutes of hard walking or cleaning the house- if you still feel sleepy- then sleep. But just being tired means you still have energy except it is locked up and needs to be released.

You never lack time you lack energy. How to release that ton of energy that is locked up inside you? Break down the barriers- work really fast at something- so fast you cannot check or inhibit yourself. I do this in writing- but I learnt it in aikido. They have a method called ‘hajime training’- you simply do the same technique again and again as fast as possible. It is knackering but you get to stop thinking. You switch to autopilot, glide control- and miraculously you build energy rather than lose it.

You never lack time you lack energy. Orde Wingate the unconventional but highly successful special forces commander in WW2 believed you could store energy by lounging around taking it real easy and then you could expend it during a mission going day after day with hardly any sleep for months on end- JUST AS LONG AS WAS REQUIRED. This is the key. Many people try to force themselves to do lots of tedious tasks they don’t like and much more importantly, don’t think are meaningful. When you have a mission you unify your sense of meaning with the momentum that comes from focusing on one task. Momentum energy is a massive force- see it as reusing the same energy over and over, kind of like a rebreather, or a kid on a swing who only needs a well-timed small push to go higher and higher. Politicians out on campaign give impassioned speech after speech- how? Momentum energy. How am I writing this article- momentum and removing barriers – just letting it flood down. Can always edit it later.

You never lack time you lack energy. One way to keep the momentum going is to have a refrain or mantra such as the above- use it to get back on track, refocus your thoughts. Distraction is the enemy of energy, dissipation is the enemy…unless you embrace it as another opportunity to play and be uninhibited. Why do we crave wanton sex and drunkenness? Because it allows us to uncork that bottled energy. Wouldn’t it be better to have access to it any time? To be able to use it to achieve our goals?

You never lack time you lack energy. When we get a success- by which I mean something we do seems to work- we get an energy payback. Lots of entrepeneurs report that they were ‘lazy’ until they saw how much money they could make…ie. they saw how to make a success of something. Success is in the eye of the beholder, but one source is ‘being wanted’. If more people want us- give us a job, buy our book, want to go out with us- we get more energy. If we are unwanted- rejected, scorned, then we lose energy. It’s the law of abundance- that which has a place in the world gets rewarded. But we are human, we are not dumb machines- we have the power to create meaning out of seeming chaos, we also have the power to create a ‘success situation’ where others just see ‘normal life’ or ‘nothing special’. You want to feel wanted: have a party. You want to have a quick success? Paint an abstract painting- a really crazy one, then frame it nicely. Do ten and have an exhibition party. Write a haiku. Write ten haikus and post them on the net. Clean a public space you love of garbage, every last bit. Have a garbage collecting party. Build a model kit. I made a model boat the other day and it gave me a massive buzz, weirdly disproportionate to the effort- but that is energy for you- it’s there, all around us, ready to flow into us as we dispense it. But the law of the universe is this; you can’t squander and waste it. You have to pour that energy into things you find meaningful. So the more you can find meaning the more energy you will have. Expand meaning and you will expand the inflow of energy.

You never lack time you lack energy. I have just written this in about ten minutes.


desperate for success?

The successful venerate the successful far more than the ‘unsuccessful’ do.

Stars are more star struck than anyone else- because that is what they yearn to be.

To manipulate a star- simply have him be told what to do by a bigger star. Nothing funnier than a waiter who doesn’t give a shit about Bruce Willis- he doesn’t want to be a star- and in fact pissing off a star is more amusing than kissing his butt.

This is why having all the outward signs of success will commend you to people who crave success- but not necessarily to people who don’t, ordinary folk etc.

If you want to be venerated by successful people, act really successful. Then people will want some of your success. These people may even help you to become really successful, but if your acting is good enough what will be the difference?


how to get more blog traffic

One way is to write articles like this...

I have just been scouting around looking at the tips out there to increase traffic and mostly they are uninspiring, on a par with telling writers to make sure their book is listed on amazon. Some crazily suggest posting articles 3-5 times a day. For some reason that reminds me of lunatics locked into a cycle of terminal self abuse...

OK- I've found out the following throughout a year of posting articles:

1) Even if you post nothing, you can expect 2/3 the traffic you get when posting madly.

2) My highest traffic for ages was generated by an innocuous small article I wrote ages ago called 'a cure for horsefly bites'. In the winter this gets no hits. From June on it is number one. It answers a real need. Someone has been bitten. They type in how do I cure this and get directed to me. So, being a slow learner its taken me until now to work out that people react best to material that answers some pressing urgent need. My post, one of my favourites, about tickling, gets no attention (though I am thinking of starting an international tickling society with tickle fests around the globe etc. I digress) because being tickled is not a pressing matter to most of us. So what I advise is: recast your existing posts with titles that suggest it is the answer to a pressing need. Instead of 'some remarks on zips' post 'How to get that stuck zip unstuck'. It's not enough to answer a potential need. You should answer a real urgent one. Doesn't have to be serious though. For many people it is urgent to know which type of apple laptop is best.

3) Get your blog headlines sent out via twitter. Most of my referrals are through twitter.

4) Mention famous people in your headline. One of my posts on Michael Phelps gets lots of hits. How about "Not the Michael Jackson method for cooking saveloys' or 'Three ways to beat Tiger Woods at getting a hole in one.'etc

5) Good quotations by people from history that modern people want to resend to others.

6) Useful advice based on real experience.

7) Anything that sparkles, that has a 'hey gladys' factor. 'hey Gladys' refers to a tabloid test of a story - it means does this story make the reader lean over their garden fence and shout 'hey gladys, listen to this' to their neighbour.

8) Recently I have had a huge response to an article aimed at showing how it's not time we lack but energy. The article was very punchy and highly focused, constantly re-iterating the same thesis in different ways. The opening line hinted at solving that age old problem- 'not enough time'. Later I retitled some articles to make them answers or direct allusions to solving PRESSING needs and problems. This really works.

9) Time is a big factor in growing your readership. A year and a bit on mine is growing by the month even when I post only once a week.

10) Change the layout of you site from time to time. This always increases page views and traffic.

11) By checking what is popular you get closer to the intersection of what you want to do and what people want to read. For example, my posts on Egypt and Japan were very popular when these places were in the news- less so now- but I can't write like that all the time, nor would I want to. But a piece I did called 'this is spiral thinking' is now getting loads of hits because someone discovered it months after it was written- and I love writing this kind of post- so now I have a good indication of where to go- maximising at the intersection of my interests and my readers'.

12) Keep checking your unique hits and page view stats. As long as they are rising your blog is working, however slowly. If they are level then keep doing the above until they start rising. When you build a campfire even if there is no flame as long as the smoke is increasing it WILL burst into flame eventually. Keep the smoke increasing. 

13) Have a sense of narrowing in on what the blog/site is about. This needn't and probably shouldn't be very definite. But over time it's good if you are zoning in on your strengths not weaknesses.

14) Put interesting and irrefutable autobiographical info on wikipedia sites of famous people. Then link the reference directly to a post on your site. For example if your site is about music do a few posts on famous musicians and then post autobiographical info on their wiki entries with links back to you. 

15) For some reason anything to do with saving time always gets big hits...


Taleb's black swan theory known to Bismarck

The black swan theory states, in a nutshell, that we cannot predict- and by extension, control, the huge world changing events that occur from time to time.

It is far better to try and be good at rapid response- either making the best of a boom or getting out quickly from a disaster. In this context Bismarck presciently wrote: "A statesman has not to make history, but if he ever in the events around him he hears the sweep of the mantle of God, then he must jump up and catch at its hem."


yang is the thang

My sister, who is also a highly regarded environmental psychologist, recently wrote asking me if yang therapy was just for boys. I replied: "Though men and women have different yin/yang balances as do individuals there is an element of interpretation at work here. For example shopping for an expedition feels much more yang than doing the weekly tesco run- but the activity is the same. Men may love being asked to fix broken bookshelves but loathe having to vacuum the house- but both are just household tasks. Can you con yourself into yanging up the yin? maybe- up to a point. Whether you are male or female, if you feel you need more yang in your life then you probably do."


quote of the day

"WORK, for example, is a far more actual source of misery for most of us than legislative politics."-- Hakim Bey