Embrace The Grind

I admire a good garden.

My Nonna has a vegetable patch overflowing with cucumbers, zucchinis and onions the size of melons. One day I lent a hand and it left me pondering life and accomplishment more than I would have expected from a day in the dirt.

It was a summer morning but it started off as overcast and cool. I considered a light jumper but decided against it after checking the forecast.

Before we could get to work, Nonna had to show me her trophies. Although her tomatoes weren’t living up to her lofty expectations, this season’s cucumbers were the size of a lumberjack’s forearm.

She began to outline the day’s plan after the victory lap. Weeding and tilling was on the menu so new seeds could be sewn.

We began to work away. The clouds cleared a path for the sun and a pleasant warmth followed.

A few hours later we were finished. We sat on the back steps of the old house that overlooked the refreshed garden. Nonna commented how happy she was with our efforts as we ate an odd but satisfying snack of cucumber and pineapple.

The garden did look good – vibrant, healthy and productive. I realised the vegetables were the end product of hours and hours of hard work. The work-to-reward ratio is a disproportionate one.

It’s so skewed that it’s a wonder any of us are willing to put in the effort to create anything of substance. The effort for some outcomes is irrational.

There’s the chef who puts thousands of hours into developing her culinary skills for people enjoy her food. The occasional thank you and a good magazine review make her efforts worthwhile.

Maybe it is irrational. But what’s the alternative? Leading a life of mediocrity.

Don’t let work dishearten you from doing something meaningful.


How To Save The World

The world is getting fat.

We’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Wherever there is a Western influence, obesity follows. China is an example of this.

The Western diet, typified by fast food, is only part of the story. The impact of the West extends further than Micky D’s and Pizza Hut. Westernised media is also having a severe effect on the health of the globe. Their influence is being compounded by the boom of social media.

Being aware of the power of the media is important. But what we need is more well-informed and notable voices to combat their skewed messages. Most of what we’re told about our health lacks scientific backing. It’s centred on sound bites that capture our forever-diminishing attention.

The problem we face is the sciencey stuff is bland. Reading a research article evokes yawns, not excitement.

So, how do we make the stuff that can improve people’s lives captivating and easily understood? The answer lies in the delivery.

Combining art and science was a concept revolutionised by Leonardo da Vinci. If we can bring artistry and education together into a bite-sized package, we’ll be well on our way to healthier lives.

The onus is on you and me to create content that is truthful and informative while also being compelling to read or watch.

Challenge accepted.

Selective Speech

The ability to communicate well is underrated. There is almost always a fault in the lines of communication when an issue arises.

Communication is hard to define. A lot of it comes down to decision making. Should I say something or listen? Most of us are guilty of speaking too much and listening too little.

But the value is in listening. Have you learned something from talking? It’s by listening to others that we capture new knowledge. Listening builds trust. A good listener earns the respect of the speaker, building the relationship in the process.

There is another danger in speaking too much. What we say loses meaning.

The words we speak have value. A scarcity increases the worth of our words while a surplus reduces it, just like in economics. If we held our tongues more often, people will listen. There would be fewer misunderstandings too.

Is there a danger in speaking too little? Perhaps. But that’s a problem most of us don’t have to worry about.

When in conversation. Listen. Don’t be afraid of silence, it’s less sinister than you think.

The Purge

Rick and Morty is a favourite show of mine. The cartoon is loosely based around Back to the Future. It follows a genius scientist, Rick, and his reluctant sidekick and grandson, Morty, as they travel the multiverse.

One episode follows their journey to a crime-free planet. But there’s a catch. One day a year they purge. The planet becomes lawless. The inhabitants vent their frustrations resulting in a bloody killing spree.

Lovely story line. Ancient civilisations of Central and South America once followed a similar tradition.

How can this mindset be applied to eating habits?

Instead of eating both healthy and unhealthy foods over a week or a month, what if you restrained yourself to healthy foods only? Then, once every so often, you allowed yourself a day of eating whatever you wanted.

Is this justifying bingeing?

Eating without restraints reduces cravings and eliminates the need to binge.

Counter to this, different personalities are suited to the ‘all or nothing’ mindset. They might benefit from the control of restraints and tolerate the occasional ‘blow-out’.

It comes down to the individual. But for sustainability and building healthy habits, those who opt for the ‘binge’ mindset should work toward a balanced approach. Focus on building a healthy relationship with food.

Story Time

I learned many things from the stories my brother and I forced our Mum to read before bed. Stories are to be enjoyed. But there are messages embedded within the text too. The messages tend to stick. The classic, Pinocchio, taught me the value of using your conscience as your guide. Thanks to the stubborn though good-natured Jiminy Cricket.

Then you grow up.

You think stories are for kids and leave fiction behind. They’re a waste of time. If you’re to spend time reading, it might as well be something that will add value.

Finding value and using your time wisely are important. But avoiding fiction discredits what can be learned from a tall tale.

Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicle has taught me plenty. Like forging your own path and even heroes make mistakes.

What is your favourite story?

What Does It Mean To Excel?

Who comes to mind when you think of success?

Whether in technology or sport, people who sit atop their ladders are viewed in high esteem. Often, the more successful you are, the more you’ve contributed to your field; but this is not the only way to excel.

The corporate structure is the template we follow to be considered successful. You start as a simple pawn and, with application, time and luck, you progress. Though this approach limits you to one area; business for example.

In the past, you weren’t so limited. Men and women of yesteryear contributed to different arenas and they too excelled. Leonard da Vinci was not just an artist but a technological innovator.

How do you gauge success?

Does it boil down to objective data, like wealth? But success is subjective in many ways; Michael Jordan is more successful than Mark Zuckerberg for the sports fan.

Success is determined by your definition of the word. If that means having a lot of money, then so be it.

Excel based on factors you deem important. Your family, friends and society all have different markers for success. Attempting to meet their determinants is an exercise in futility.

Become a success in your own eyes.

Lessons Imagined Vol. 2

The two continued to walk and the smiles gradually washed from their faces. A gentle sea breeze eased it’s way across, accompanied by the gush of nearby bushes. Several minutes past when the older man said, ‘I was just being stubborn you know’.

He spoke with more than a hint of regret in his voice. It was clear the thought was something he had recognised long ago though had never vocalised, let alone acted upon. The younger of the two remained quiet, managing to keep several quick witted remarks to himself.

‘Change is possible at any age. There’s truth in the fact that it’s a greater challenge to change old habits but it’s doable.’

The old man was looking at the path ahead. His face grappling with the notion.

‘I know I’m stubborn. Hell, I’m proud of it; it’s one of the reasons I’ve thrived as a businessman. Though it does have its negatives.’

‘Change is always possible, son,’ he repeated as he lifted his gaze.

‘Pride has stopped me from changing in the past and has led to more harm than good. It’s stunted my ability to grow and become a better man,’ he spoke sadly and softly.

The older man turned his head towards the younger man and said, ‘Learn from my mistakes, son. Learn to compromise’.

The younger of two nodded, promising to keep this advice close to heart.

Lessons Imagined Vol. 1

The water lapped the bank gently. It was late in the day though the dry heat lingered, as was typical for this time of year. Dusk had brought many out of their homes. Children played games of their own invention while dogs took the opportunity to stretch their legs and converse with their counterparts.

The two walked side by side, one taller than the other; they kept a good pace, enough to force a light sweat. The walk had been silent. Not an uncomfortable silence but a silence that allowed the two to enjoy each others presence.

The older man walked with a brisk gait. His hair was more salt than pepper. His face showed he was not afraid to work in the sun. The various lines and contours illustrated a man who wore his heart on his sleeve. Even if he wanted to, he would have difficulty suppressing the emotions he felt. Despite the signs of father time, he moved and behaved with a youthful exuberance.

The younger man walked with his hands clasped gently behind himself in a sage-like manner. Each of his footsteps angled out slightly as he strode along. He moved with a quiet confidence though there was a knowingness that he still had much to do with his life.

‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,’ the older man spoke while casting an eye over the dogs in the field. He was talking to himself though said it in a manner that suggested something had dawned upon him; something he had stubbornly ignored in the past.

‘I remember you saying those very words when Mum tried to get you to change in some way’, the younger man said softly, his voice appearing to come from times gone by.

One corner of the older man’s mouth tilted into a subtle grin which would be imperceptible if you weren’t looking for it. He let out a light chuckle acknowledging that he too recalled these instances in the past.

‘Boy, was I stubborn,’ the older man said, his grin turning into a wistful smile.

The younger man snorted, his face breaking out into a close-lipped smile as he managed to stop himself from a quick-witted reply.

‘Boy, I’m stubborn. Better?’ said the older man while giving the younger man a knowing glance.

‘Much better,’ the younger man replied as the two basked in their memories.

The Hero’s Way

Stories inspire. I remember Yes Man with Jim Carrey having this effect on me. His life wasn’t panning out as he had expected though a seminar with a motivational speaker changed everything. He began to say yes to the opportunities life had to offer rather than remaining in his comfort zone.

I made a concerted effort to apply the same principle to my life and, even today, remind myself of the benefits of staying open when I start to play things safe.

If created correctly, tales that follow the journey of a hero make us, the viewer or reader, hope he succeeds. In many cases, we wish we were the hero due to his noble characteristics and exciting adventures.

Exaggeration and a bit of magic make the lives of these individuals a little hard to replicate but we can lead the life of a hero if we choose. It takes a willingness to be bold and to seek adventure. Though the main ingredient – the thing that most stories gloss over – is the need to work hard.

The grind doesn’t make for good reading. No one wants to read about the countless hours of repetition required to make the difficult look easy. As an audience, we want to be entertained.

Know this though: it’s possible to become the hero. Take the time and put in the work behind the scenes and eventually, you’ll become who you want to be.

Very few are willing to put in the hard work. There’s plenty of space at the top while the rest of the populace slug it out in the purgatorial middle ground.

Say yes to putting in a hero’s effort to become a hero.

The Secret To Dominance

This is a tale of two brothers – Ralph The Repeater and Earnest The Explorer.

The two lived on the planet Erasnick, a place that prided itself on its athleticism.

The brothers came from a family of pedigree. Their father had been named the Interplanetary Player of the Year three times and many other members of the family had represented Erasnick at the Games too.

As with most brothers of a similar age, a fierce rivalry existed between the two. Ralph and Earnest would make a competition of nearly anything, including their daily chores. The two would race to see who could muster the family’s Keepel, a sheep-like animal, the fastest.

Of course, their keenness to compete led to some troubles. Once during mustering season, the boys rustled the Keepel with such speed that the creatures were worked into a frenzy affecting their Goopel (a purple plasma-like substance) production for weeks.

The brothers went down different training paths; this is how their names came about. Ralph, the older of the two, was known for his discipline. When working on a skill, he had the willpower and fortitude to train for hours. He would adopt the tried and tested methods that past athletes had sworn by.

Earnest opted for a different approach. He would tell you himself that he is a ‘shiny objects’ kind of guy. He wasn’t sold on the idea that methods of the past were the best way to achieve results. He didn’t possess the stubborn discipline of his older brother but was inquisitive and searched the galaxies for alternative ways to improve. His exploring came at a cost, though, as the time which could have been spent training was instead spent travelling and determining the effectiveness of the approaches he had discovered.

When it came to local and national competitions, the two excelled in different areas with Ralph winning half of the time and Earnest the other. An observer could not say who was the better of the two.

Interplanetary competitions were a different story. Although they often put up a good fight, neither brother was able to take home the crown.

Soon after another failure at the tournament, the brothers sat together consoling each other over a steaming mug of Jalapo. The planet hosting the year’s competition, Plidar, was famous for its Jalapo. The flavour of the drink was reminiscent of Earth’s cinnamon though rather than being watery, the drink was thick and creamy.

It dawned on Earnest, as the two were discussing where they had gone wrong, that perhaps they should try a different approach.

Earnest proposed they take a leaf out of each other’s books – that is, Earnest would teach Ralph about the more effective methods of training he had gathered during his exploration, while Ralph would train Earnest to improve his discipline and single-mindedness.

Having nothing to lose, Ralph agreed and the two went to work.

The local competitions yielded the same results as before their discussion. It was a dead heat between the two. The difference now was their competitors, who usually managed to stay within reach of the two brothers, were blown away. It had become a two-horse race.

It wasn’t long before the next Interplanetary event rolled around. This would be a true test of their new strategy.

The difference was remarkable. The competitors were fierce but the brothers from Erasnick proved too strong with Ralph winning the tournament by the barest of margins over his younger brother.

A similar thread would appear for years to come with the two trading places on the podium. Their approach, combining a doggedness to work hard with searching and applying the most effective training methods, created an unparalleled legacy of Interplanetary dominance that would never be surpassed.