Memories

I decided to have a touristy day today. Travelling past hills I’ve climbed is always dodgy as I need to remember to keep my eye on the road but had a great trip past Loch Tulla, through Glen Coe, through Ballachulish, down the coast to Connel, then back along Loch Awe to Tyndrum.

These were also roads my dad and I knew like the back of our hands in our biking days when we barely gave the hills a glance as we screamed past at silly speeds. One time when I was on the back of his bike he reduced me to tears drifting the back wheel round the tight, twisting bends just north of Loch Lomond.

Today I felt very sedate pootling along in my little camper.

Nah…

Oh well, I got about 2/3 of the way up Ben Vane today and then turned back. A number of reasons. It’s a couple of years since I’ve been up a hill and I’m out of shape, it’s pretty steep all the way and there had already been a couple of bits that I didn’t fancy reversing as tired as I was, and as there was another hour’s worth at least of climbing I decided better not.

Add to this the fact the weather was coming in and getting colder, wetter, and windier. By the time I got back down to the van it was, to use a technical term, shit.

A grand day out all the same as you can see from the photographs.

Finally…

Not only is it “Finally I’ve written another blog post”, but more importantly, finally after Covid, Brexit, and Suez incurred delays we at last took possession of our new camper car a couple of weeks ago. Since then we’ve had a really nice overnight in The New Forest, and I’ve done a couple of other overnights, but this is the first multi-day trip.

As you will see from the photographs I’m at the northern end of Loch Lomond, in the car park opposite Inveruglas power station. The hill you can see behind the photograph of the powerstation is Ben Vane which I’m going to go up tomorrow. It’s a lovely quiet car park with views down the loch and at this time of year is free to park in.

I’ve got a few days to play with and, depending on how knackered I am after the first Munro tomorrow (it’s been more than a year since my last hill) I will try to get a few more in this week.

When 2+2 = 5

I have written and spoken many times about the risk of the data collected on our behalf at some time in the future being combined in ways that we don’t know about, can do nothing about, but affect our ability to do things. This could be databases that in themselves at the time don’t appear contentious, but when combined in the future are perceived to have meaning that couldn’t be anticipated.

I have just had a small taste of this. For some completely unknown reason Google suspended my YouTube account – and I genuinely can’t think of, or imagine, what might have triggered this. (Since reinstated with no explanation). Thankfully it wasn’t an issue as I stopped trusting Google years ago and don’t use any of their products other than YouTube. However, if I did rely on their services, having them suddenly withdrawn without an apparent reason could cause considerable difficulty.

As it is the impact was minimal, other than reinforcing my instincts not to touch Google with a bargepole.

Old man’s hands.

It is strange to look down at my own hands resting in my lap and see old man’s hands. How did that happen?

I am very lucky. I have the sort of skin that doesn’t age or wrinkle much (it drives my wife nuts).

If I put in a bit of effort I can still be relatively slim.

And someone I met the other day thought that I was younger than them and they were 50! (I am 61)

All the same, age creeps up on you…

Good works

I remember being in Amsterdam many years ago and looking at the canals and the town houses and the evidence of the growth of the industrious mindset. I was struck by the amount of activity and energy that it took to manufacture, sell, and distribute things all around the world and the wealth that was created in the process.

But it is that whole Protestant, Northern European, urge to have an impact on the world, to improve the world, that has ended up with us having a huge and damaging impact on the planet. And has it made us any happier?

I contrasted this with the efforts of an Indian swami who rather than impacting the world outside attempts to explore and change the world inside. The inward journey alters how we react to the world, how we interact with the world, and that activity, collectively, over time changes the world. But it changes it in a very different way. It is not forcing it to be any way particularly, to bend to our will. It changes through our behaviour, our actions, our relationships to each other and to nature.

We held a memorial service for my mum on Saturday (it had been delayed by COVID). Sitting in her church, with her nice, good, friends around me made think again about her inclination to be good and to do good in the world. Through her Christian faith she had a high standard to meet up to which she didn’t always achieve and I certainly didn’t. That feeling that I’ve never been good enough, that I needed to improve, was imbued in me from an early age. It is probably the single biggest bit of baggage that I have to learn to get rid off. Even after 61 years I am still trying.

A lot of the mindfulness stuff in fashion these days, mostly because it is being driven by the American culture, feels like a reinvention of the Protestant good works in the world mentality. It’s all about improvement, self improvement, improving the world.

But what is fascinating when you get into this is that the problem isn’t the improvement bit it is the self bit. It is the false self, the created self, the combination of all of our stories and should’s and shouldn’t’s and enculturated norms that we selfishly protect and that we try to make the world fit in with. That is the problem. That is the source of all of our suffering. In the absence of that false self we get to be the real us, the calm peaceful loving self that remains when you strip everything else away. And if we all manage to do that then the world becomes a better place.

Sitting quietly in a room on my own

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

– Blaise Pascal

Currently my family are on holiday in Devon and I am at home looking after the cat. Well, that was my excuse. I actually wanted to spend time on my own and to take the opportunity to do nothing.

It is surprising how difficult it is to do nothing. Our brains don’t like being left to their own devices. It is fascinating what they do to try and avoid this. Just sitting, as the Zen tradition refers to meditation, is ridiculously difficult. The temptation to get up and do something, to pick up my phone and read something, to feel justified in tidying up or tinkering, or to replay events from the past, is enormous.

But doing nothing doesn’t half teach you about yourself. You get to learn what occupies the constant stream of chatter in your head. You get to see what you think is incredibly important, and what isn’t. You get to peel back the layers on what you think. Layers upon layers…

The idea is that by stripping back these endless layers of chatter, self obsessed thinking, culturally induced guilt, and on and on … that you finally get to the calm, peaceful, contented true nature that we hide from ourselves.

I’m not there yet …

What do I believe?

The book I am reading about writing at the moment suggests starting with big or important questions. So…

What do I believe?

I fall at the first hurdle with this question as I am wary of beliefs and more inclined to attempt to see or understand truth, which by all accounts eventually reduces to “I am”. Everything else is concept or opinion which if held strongly enough over a long enough period of time turns into a belief.

The other forms of belief are those handed down from other people as dogma or doctrine and I am even less inclined to place any importance in those.

But there are also some deeply held ideas of how the world works that I am probably not even aware of. These are the ones that I “believe” are just how the world is and considering alternatives is genuinely inconceivable. What are these? 

That being good matters.  

That it is important that we try to be good.

That people who don’t try to be good are not good. 

That I am not good enough.

That I therefore have to constantly try to be better. 

That life means something even though I don’t know what that is.

That there isn’t a god. 

That nature is all powerful.

Maybe that nature IS god.

If anything I am wary of beliefs. They feel artificial and rigid, but the ones that I am unaware of holding are likely the most rigid of them all because I don’t even know that I have them 

The problem with religion

Religions are based on the same core insight, the perennial philosophy, that we are not separate from the world around us and that thinking we are is the source of our suffering.

This insight was experienced by exceptional individuals, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, and the principles of what they discovered were shared, usually in a simplified, concretised, watered down form to make them accessible.

Over time these initially helpful practices are turned into rules and dogma (by rule keepers who thereby achieve power and who often interpret the rules differently even within a religion) and we arrive in the position that “if you don’t follow the rules you can’t be in our team”.

Sadly this reinforces the idea of separation and we end up where we started, suffering.

Time

There is nothing quite like a birthday to make you contemplate the passage of time. But this year it’s getting weird.

I’ve been aware that our experience of time is subjective since discovering Einstein and relativity, but as I get better at being present in this moment, the only “time” we ever truly experience, the more unreal the past, and indeed the future, are becoming.

  • Have I really been around for 61 years?
  • Are the little people I see in family photos really my now grown up daughters?
  • Have I really been to all those fascinating places and are they all still there?
  • Is my Mum really no longer at the end of the phone waiting for me to tell her about my latest adventures?

I am less and less sure of all of the above with the passing of each day. Maybe it’s my age…

Busily getting nowhere

It is so interesting to notice what I resist throughout the day. As I get better at noticing my thoughts and emotions it is apparent that what winds me up is lots and lots of little things. Drivers on the way to the station, the way “some people” put rubbish in the teabag bowl, the way that my todo list manager works, someone’s responses in a chat about Buddhism.

It is a constant stream of “this shouldn’t be like this” chatter that induces stress, makes no impact on the world, takes energy that could be better spent on other things, and in the end gets me absolutely nowhere.

Fitting in

We are all pretending to be something we’re not.

We fit in to our parents’ expectations when we’re toddlers.

We fit in to the norms of our peers at school, or conform to the role of our idealised heroic loner.

We fit in to the roles expected of us as adults – husband, parent, dependable worker, boss.

But none of this is who we are.

The real us is the bit that knows that this process of inculturation is happening, that watches it taking over our lives, that regrets the pretence.

Fantasy

“I live in a world that is completely seamless between the two. Fantasy is the real story. The world in which we live is structured from notions that are completely fabricated; your clothes, your wallet, that we all agree that pieces of paper are worth something. Geography is a complete fabrication. Where does Mexico start and America end? From space, nowhere. We agree to kill each other, to tax each other, to shame each other from notions that are complete fabrications. To me, those are harmful fantasies. Whereas my fantasies are liberating.”
– Guillermo Del Toro

H/T Whiskey River

Thinking

When I was young my dad would accuse me of “thinking too much”. Ironically you could argue that I’ve made my living for the last 16 years by thinking!
But what he meant was the sort of ruminative thinking that you just turn over in your head, over and over again. The sort of thinking that he has struggled with all of his life. We all do. Clinging onto some worry, or slight, or threat and attempting to beat it to death with thought.

It is really hard to stop doing this, especially when you’re not aware of it, if you think it’s just the way that things are. But it needn’t be. This is one thing that meditation has taught me. Not all the time, but some of the time, I am able to step back, to notice that I’m stuck in ever decreasing circles, and in the noticing of this its power begins to diminish.

We tend to avoid sitting thinking by making ourselves busy but that can be problem in itself. We can use busyness as a way to run away from ourselves. Especially nowadays when it is all too easy to pick up our phones to stave off “boredom”. In fact many of us have very few moments in the day when we actually stop completely.

Lockdown has given me the opportunity to stop more than usual. It can be a challenge. Echoing my dad I can have “too much time to think”. But as I get better at noticing when my thoughts career out of control, and better at bringing myself back to “just sitting”, the better equipped I feel to deal with life’s inevitable ups and downs.

Off Kilter

I have always felt that we know deep down when what we are doing is wrong. Wrong for us or wrong for other people. We don’t need Ten Commandments or a Noble Eightfold Path because we know if what we are doing is causing harm to ourselves and others. Expecting other people in the form of dogma to force us to do the right thing is a hiding to nothing.

Likewise we know deep down what is good for us. I knew that stopping smoking was something I should do and the deepest part of me “just decided” and told the more conscious part of me to shut up and get over it. The same happened with stopping drinking and giving up meat. The part of me that has my best interests at heart knew what to do even if my chattering monkey didn’t.

We know when we are off kilter, when we are out of tune with the universe and the way it works. Call it God if you like, or consciousness, or nature but we are aware when our lives are in tune with what makes the planet turn and the plants grow.

We can learn to listen to this all too often hidden part of us if we could just sit still long enough…

Noticing

One thing that lockdown has given me is an increased ability to notice the world around me. Instead of jetting off to new and exciting places, or even driving hundreds of miles to new and exciting hills, I have been “stuck with” walking the same local walks over and over again. And I have loved it! Each walk I notice something different.

Sometimes it is something small, like the first bluebells, at the side of the path. Sometimes it is the changes in the path itself as the weather changes and the mud dries. Sometimes it is a horse who I have admired many times in the distance but who yesterday decided to come over and say hello.

Sometimes it is the light on the many views I am lucky enough to enjoy. Yesterday these were stunning and several times, on a walk I have done hundreds of times over the nearly thirty years that we have lived here, I was stopped in my tracks and left just saying “Wow” over and over to myself.

Spring springing

A part of me always misses the winter as it passes into memory. The wind and the rain and the snow bring their own excitement. But walking in the warm air today, with the bluebells beginning to flower and the dry paths a joy to walk on, there was a definite spring in my step. Even the red kites seemed elated at the clear skies and the warmth.

Being told what to do

Last night I had a dream that I was being asked what to do by a young man who had built a business on the strengthen his own skills but was on the brink of having to take on the management of others.

I didn’t tell him what to do. I told him stories of my own experiences of managing others. I remembered that many had expected me to tell them what to do but that I resisted. My job was to explain and give context and then get out of the way as they worked out what needed done.

The same is true of life. All too often we expect someone else to tell us what to do, whether some beardy guy in the sky, some ex-pat Tibetan Lama, or the latest self help guru. We want to be told what to do to make everything all right.

But it doesn’t work like that. It is our life and we have to work it out for ourselves. We can listen to their stories, and we can learn from their experiences, but it is the working it out that is the point.

Miss that and we miss life.

Management

I have been known in the past to be disparaging of management but when you see it done well it is clear just what a difference good management can make.
Every time I ate in a Pret A Manger (in the dim and distant past) I used to marvel at how consistent the food was, how pleasant the staff were, how dependable the whole experience was and think “None of this happens without fantastic management putting in place effective procedures and getting staff on board with acting them out consistently”.
I think the same every time I get a message from a logistics company telling me when something will arrive, increasingly down to the nearest half an hour! Having spent my time driving I got to see first hand what this takes in terms of management, incredibly efficient systems, staff focus, training etc.
Good managers are worth their weight in gold. Staff know this as well, if not better, than anyone. Sadly what too often happens is that once in that select club bad managers are allowed to coast and can do untold harm to both their organisations and the staff who work in them. In fact rather than rooting out poor performing staff, doing something about underperforming management could have an exponentially greater effect.
But the divide between staff and management is like a class barrier where culturally it is easier to deal with staff, because that is your job, than with other managers, because they are your peers. Add to this that managers managers have come up through the system with the same mindset and you have a real problem that can only really be addressed from the top.
As I said, it is impressive when it is.

Holding back the tide

Well, several tides really. The passage of time has its inexorable effect. “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;”.

The veneer on bathroom cupboards starts to crack, patio grouting starts to crumble, cars rattle and creak. And yes, bodies ain’t what they used to be either.

But I like things looking aged. The shiny and new looks superficial compared to something that’s been around for a bit. Especially people.

So how much of a fight should we put up? Should we constantly strive to hold back the tide of time, or is there merit in letting things grow old gracefully, including ourselves?

Butterflies and drones

On a phone call to Dave Snowden yesterday he recalled a conversation he had had with Peter Drucker about consultants in which Drucker said something along the lines of “consultants should be like butterflies. They should flit about sharing ideas and inspiring people to change. They shouldn’t end up doing things for people”.

As Dave then pointed out this is very much where we have ended up with an industrial model of consultancy where youngsters with minimal experience siphon off vast amounts of money supplying cookie cutter solutions to business that all too often do more harm than good and deliberately cultivate damaging dependency.

I faced this with my own consultancy. I wanted to be a butterfly, they wanted me to be a drone. That look of nervousness when they realised that I expected them to change their thinking and do something with the new ideas. Even if they were comfortable with this their boss invariably wasn’t. It was frustrating for both of us and over time I grew weary with that frustration.

I used to joke about having an agreement for potential clients to sign that said “Do you care? Do you really care? Do you really, really care?”

People who really, really care can still make a difference. We need more of them.

Writing

Some of you may have noticed that I have not been writing much the past few weeks. There hasn’t been any particular reason for that, it is more that after twenty years of doing this I don’t always feel that I have anything to add.

But then it has always been true that I write as much, if not more, for myself as for anyone who reads these posts. Writing helps me notice what I notice, it helps me understand what matters to me, and helps me gain perspective on things. Writing “in public” helps me to take what I am writing more seriously than just blabbing away in my journal.

Life continues to throw up situations and events that need processing. I should write more. I miss it when I don’t do it.

Expectations

It’s funny looking out at the snow falling on the roof in front of my office window and thinking “This shouldn’t be happening, it was really warm the other day”.

It was funny hearing some royal quoted on the radio as saying that Prince Phillip’s death had come as a shock. (Really??)

It was funny not feeling as distraught at my mum’s death as I should have done.

Life rarely goes as expected. Why do we not learn this?

Mind blowing

This morning we were having a conversation about communication, about how incredible it is that a thought pops up in my brain, my lungs, lips, and vocal chords kick into gear and words come out of my mouth. The vibrating air hits Mollie’s ears, her brain interprets those sounds and hey presto what I said enters her brain.

We then got onto how the written word is similarly miraculous, especially when you get into other languages and things like pictograms etc. where scribbles on a page, written sometimes centuries previously, can produce emotion and understanding in the reader.

We then went on to talk about the vastly increased speed at which the world’s words are being recorded and stored in some fashion. And how most of them don’t ever really exist, only waggling electrons being to various degrees ephemeral even if temporarily stored on some sort of device.

We then talked about how even the letters that go up to make up the words don’t really exist, especially in transit where they are chopped up by packet switched networks and squirted around the world in milliseconds only to pile up in bits on millions of devices.

Coincidentally a poem had popped up in a guided meditation I was listening to when I woke this morning and I wanted to tell the girls about it.

So I lift my wrist, say “Hey Siri, find my the poem Breathe by David Whyte” and instantly, via servers all around the world, those words hit the Siri servers in Cupertino which understood them well enough to sift through all the millions and millions of instances of the word David, the millions and millions of instances of the word white (whichever spelling), the millions and millions of instances of the word poem, and the millions and millions of instances of the word breathe to return the poem to me on my wrist.

INSTANTLY! ON A DEVICE THE SIZE OF A 50p PEICE. ON MY WRIST!

Mind blowing if you just stop to think about it

Facts

I am occasionally surprised when I encounter someone getting exercised about facts and their apparent demise. It seems faintly nostalgic, looking back to some fictitious time when the world was simpler and facts could be trusted.

It never existed. Even scientific facts are only currently useful working hypotheses (that’s the strength of the scientific method unlike religions who take their truths way too seriously).

We are making all of it up. Realising this makes it easier to relax about “the truth” and to stop beating each other up about our made up stories and our made up facts.

I was going to say that the only fact that I am ever sure of is that I exist but even that’s not true any more. Awareness is happening here but any persistent sense of self is just a series of recurring, fleeting thoughts like all the others, passing bubbles in a frothy stream. Pop!

Progress?

A beautiful walk with blue skies and the sound of skylarks accompanying me – along with the steady drone of HS2 earth movers and the constant bleeping of reversing lorries.

Zoom in to the fence line in the distance in the photo above to see the sinister line of high viz clad security. They are encountering local protest as they start destroying ancient woodland to temporarily store stuff while they tear up the countryside.

SOTN 38

As ever Paolo and I had great fun recording the latest podcast. The whole reason we started recording them was that we’d be having these really interesting, fun, conversations and thought why not let others join in!

In this episode we start from vaccines and how conversations and online influence are impacting public health, we move on to celebrities interviews and how many think they must take a side. After a quick debate on handle and hooks, we talk about food, cats and caravans. We end wondering how many of the new behaviours adopted in the last year will end up lasting.

Category errors

A handle is not a hook. If you use a hook as a handle, say for example to hang up your coat, that handle ceases to function as a handle and life becomes harder. 

A sink is not a storage space, it is a space for making things wet. If you use it as a storage place, by leaving mountainous piles of dishes in it, it ceases to function as a place for making things wet. 

Unfortunately my life is beset with people who make category errors. 

Ahead of the game

I have just finished reading Carlo Rovelli’s book Reality Is Not What It Seems. It is a very impressive and exciting romp through physics from the ancient Greeks to the modern day in which he does a great job of clarifying complex topics. 

But one thing kept bugging me all the way through. Despite the fact that much of the book is about how everything around us is constantly changing, and that the minute particles of which the universe is constructed pervades everything, including us, there was no mention of the fact that Buddha sussed this out 2,500 years ago. 

Given how immersed I am in Buddhist philosophy and thinking these days it was interesting to read something so completely oriented to western philosophy and its Greek origins. It left me feeling frustrated and slightly dissatisfied satisfied with the book.

I was also listening to a podcast recently which referred to the experiment done a few years ago with a photograph of a dress where people vehemently disagreed about what colour the dress was. It turned out that our brains adjust colours for natural or artificial light and depending on whether you had spent most of your life in the open air or indoors, the dress is seen as one set of colours or another. 

Buddhist psychology taught that our experience of the world is “conditioned” by previous experience, our biology, and the norms of the society around us. Again something fundamental to the world that physics is “discovering”, that the Buddha sussed out 2,500 years ago.

The NHS

I got my first COVID vaccination this morning. As part of the process they give you a list of possible side effects – but one they didn’t mention was tearing up.

All the effort, all the efficiency, the pleasant staff, the feeling of being in very safe hands. I welled up in the queue and again in the car on the way home.

Any thoughts of damaging the NHS, especially privatising it for corporate gain, should be made a treasonable offence.

Driven

It may be my advancing years, it may be the calming effects of lockdown, but my aversion to the idea of being driven in business is increasing. Driving change, driving acceptance, driving sales. Too much of modern life is driven. Driven to succeed, driven to perform, driven to get ahead of others.

All of this driving is overheating our minds, our bodies, and the even world around us.

How about encouraging, supporting, or even enticing?

Happy 20th Birthday To My Blog

On this day twenty years ago, yes twenty years, I wrote my first blog post.

I thought I had lost any record of it because of a mess when moving domain names back in the early days. But a few years ago I tried finding it on The Internet Archive. Initially I had no success but I then remembered that Ev Williams (one of the founders of Blogger and later Twitter) made me a “blog of note” on his blog way back in the early days and this link had been spidered and stored in The Internet Archive.

So here it is – my very first blog post.

It is odd to think that without this tentative beginning I wouldn’t have got to travel the world, met so many wonderful people, and had a book published.

And perhaps more remarkably I am still blogging after all these years, and in fact increasingly doing so in preference to spending much time on social platforms. So if you want to keep in touch you can always find me here.

One World?

When my mother died her world died with her. What she saw, how she saw it, and what it meant to her no longer exists. The same will happen when I die. The world that I take so seriously, that feels so real, will disappear when I do.

This is not solipsism, there is a “real” world of matter and energy out there. But what I experience and what you experience are fundamentally different. Sure there are broad overlaps, and these are what allow us to communicate and to co-exist, but the reality that we are each so convinced of, and so attached to, is made up.

Remember this the next time you get into an argument about whether that shirt is green or blue – you are both right.

Remember this the next time you get into a bigger argument about bigger stuff too…

The pull of other places

Over the weekend my family were watching a film set in Australia. The story took place on the coast to the north of Sydney and the scenery and the sounds of the wildlife were so, so familiar. I started to feel a strong pang of homesickness.

I have been lucky enough to have been to Australia many times, and have seen more of the country than many Australians, but with the changes in my life and the world around my I find myself wondering if I will ever get to visit that wonderful country again.

In fact the many trips I have been able to experience around the world are taking on an air of unreality. Was I really there? Did it really happen? With the odd effects that lockdown is having on my sense of time and place it is getting hard to tell what happened last week never mind last year.

But this is a good thing. Time and place are much more malleable than we think. Our brains construct our experience of both and that experience changes all the time. Truly being where we are is hard enough never mind worrying about being somewhere else!

A sense of place

As my Apple Watch ups the monthly challenges my daily mileage is increasing to about nine miles a day at the moment. At my usual speed of around 3.5 miles an hour this takes me just under three hours. This is three hours incredibly well spent.

I don’t listen to audio books or podcasts. I just walk. I don’t even think that much. I just walk. I notice what is around me, which even on walks that I have now done hundreds of times changes every time, sometimes in small ways, sometimes in surprisingly significant ways.

My eyes and ears become more attuned to the world around me. I notice the smell of recently ploughed fields long before I see them. I notice the sound of different birds, like the mob of unruly sparrows that has moved into a couple of the trees on my most frequent route. My sight increasingly expands from the next step in front of me to the wider horizon and becomes more attuned to the flash of white as roe deer move away from the sound of my feet.

More than ever, in our disruptive times, feeling grounded matters. The best way to feel grounded is to place your feet on the ground, over and over again, for hours on end…

Latest SOTN

In this episode we first talk about driving (cars, lorries, motorbikes, people crazy), then we hear about Euan’s new HomePod Mini, and finally we discuss about past present and future of some real and some fictional politicians (American, Italian, British). 

Right, wrong, and righteousness

During lockdown the number of people out walking, cycling and running has increased enormously and to such an extent that a lot of footpaths have become quagmires.  As a consequence I am now more inclined to walk on our local network of single lane roads.

When growing up in Scotland I was always aware of the Highway Code instructions that if there is no footpath to walk on the right hand side of the road so that you are facing oncoming traffic – unless you are on a blind bend when you can briefly cross to the left then return to the right once you are back on the straight.

I am not sure why, but a large number of the folks now out running on the roads appear to be unaware of this “rule” and run on the left. I couldn’t do it with the traffic coming unseen behind me! But the other consequence is that they are now running straight at me – and a disconcerting number of them keep running straight at me clearly thinking that I am in the wrong for walking on the right.

Each time it happens I hold my ground. I am 6’3″ and about 15 stone so a pretty immovable object but they still keep running at me until eventually they capitulate and swerve past.

What is interesting is how this affects me. To begin with I was getting bent out of shape about it, indulging in righteous indignation, making sweeping generalisations about runners, and character assassinations of the individuals involved.

But I am getting better at letting this go. I am “right” and I am more than able to keep walking in the face of oncoming bodies, but what I don’t have to do is to add the extra layers of moral indignation.

This is good practice for other areas of my life…

Missing building sites

One of my tighter reverses…

Watching DIY SOS last night there were various trucks and vans delivering to the build and I found myself missing it. Missing the traffic marshals and their banter, the puzzle of navigating through complex sites, the cleverness of the unloading processes, and the sense of relief at having made my way through it all without incident.

The experiences I had driving large trucks were among the most terrifying of my life – but they were also amongst the most satisfying. I may at some stage return to them.

Writing as an end in itself

It is so easy to get caught up in writing to achieve an outcome rather than writing as an end in itself. We become trapped in worrying about if we write well enough, worrying that people might read what we write, even worrying if we will be able to read our own handwriting at some future point!

But just the act of getting your thoughts out of your head and onto “paper” is a worthwhile pursuit in itself – with no regard for what becomes of it at some future point. It is the process of thinking out loud that is worthwhile, “seeing” your thoughts as you think them, slowing down your racing brain long enough to be able to relate to your thoughts and understand them.

I have so many notebooks that start off with the intention of bullet journaling, or recording gratitude, or whatever other extrinsic outcome that end up slowing to a halt as I give up on their original “purpose”.

But I now know that just writing, with no aim in mind other than to enjoy the process, is something that I get great value from and return to again and again.

Being confidently wrong

While on a walk with Mollie yesterday we passed through a wood that I have walked through hundreds of times. I was going to show her a different footpath through that wood than we would normally take. Not sure whether it was due to everything looking different in the snow but I took a wrong turn somewhere and we ended up on the path we would have usually taken.

But I didn’t realise! My brain was trying to make the path we were on look like the path I thought we were on, waffling on about the helpful arrows painted on the trees by The Chiltern Society. Even when we came out of the wood, where we usually would expect to, I didn’t recognise it because my brain was still trying to make it look like where I thought we were!

When I was playing my clarinet in orchestras and wood bands my tutor used to say “If you are going to make a mistake make it sound like you meant it”. In other words don’t be diffident. Do whatever you are doing with confidence.

But I have learned, especially on mountains, that false confidence can be dangerous. Admitting you don’t know where you are as early as possible and doing something about it rather than marching on in the wrong direction is so important.

I reckon the same is true in business. How many hugely expensive mistakes have been made either because people ignored the signs that the path they were on was the wrong one, or when they knew they were on the wrong path but were trying to bluff it out?

There is a lot of power in life generally in admitting that you’re not sure…