Great Expectations – Part Two

With his bags packed and his stomach grumbling, he began to prepare breakfast. Knowing it might be some time before he got to cook a good meal for himself, he savoured the experience.

He thought it ironic that he enjoyed cooking and other simple things, given what he was capable of. He prepared his scrambled eggs with precision. He didn’t overbeat the mixture making sure it was a marbled yellow colour.

He knew cereal wasn’t the healthiest option but he helped himself to a large bowl anyway. He poured the milk carefully and switched on his laptop. He savoured the crunch of the cereal as the old laptop came to life. He had picked up the computer second hand years ago and somehow it continued to run.

He left the computer to load, not wanting his cereal to turn to mush. You see, cereal eating is an art. The first few spoonfuls are about enjoying the crunch with the freshness of the milk. Then there’s the golden period where the cereal starts to absorb the milk though retains its shape. Once past this, you’re left with an amorphous mass and this is best scooped into the nearest bin.

He checked his emails having finished his cereal. The eggs continued to cook away on the stove. The amount of junk that filled his inbox flummoxed him. He would like to meet the people who spent their time making and sending spam mail. He’d punch them in their collective noses.

His eggs were ready by the time his inbox was clear of trash. He could never seem to eat slowly despite his best intentions. Maybe it was because he had lived alone for so long. Without company, he had no one to talk with.

He pushed his now egg-less dish to one side and dragged the laptop forward. Damn. Still no reply. He had spent hours crafting clever emails in hope he would get some kind of lead.

Even if had received a response of two, would he act on it? Would he have the balls to move away from what he was born to do and instead pursue something he was less adept at but more passionate about?

He wouldn’t have to worry about that quandary as he stared at an empty inbox.

Great Expectations – Part One

It’s interesting how it goes. One day it feels like you’re making progress only for the next day to come along and stump you.

He hadn’t been back long when the calls began. All he had wanted was a small break. But the expectations were too high. What would happen to the people if he ‘disappeared’?

Catastrophe most likely. And he’d be to blame. After all, it was him, and him alone, that could stop them.

He was commended upon his return by the officials, as always. It was nice, but he never felt comfortable when heaped with praise. He didn’t feel worthy. He was only doing what anyone in his position with his abilities would do. To him, it was like the celebrating a birthday. What for? The child had not contributed to his birth. Apart from being the lucky by-product of the whole messy event.

He attended the ceremonies nevertheless. He wore the medals. He made the speech. They told him to take a well-deserved break and that he would not be bothered unless absolutely necessary.

Two days is better than none, he thought as he organised his gear. Much of his first choice equipment was in the shop for repairs. He’d be forced to use what he had lying around.

His wounds were still ripe, he noticed, as he changed his dressings. He was unable to fully bear weight on his left leg and was relying on a cane to make his way around the apartment.

He stood in front of the mirror wearing nothing but his briefs and he pondered his situation. The reflection cast was of a man somewhere in his middle thirties. Faded scars painted his body, though rather than looking ungainly they added to his aura. One scar, in particular, marked his left thigh. It was deeper than the rest and was dead straight spanning almost the entire length from hip to knee.

Apart from the scars, he struck a handsome figure. His skin was fair and his hair a dark brown, though at times appeared almost burgundy when struck by the light. It was neatly cropped, requiring little maintenance.

He had a beard, which reflected his mood. It was wild and thick. His fingers battled to make their way through the follicular jungle.

He had an athletic and unassuming physique. But this was merely a guise. Hard and sinewy, the man was well balanced. He was not burdened by muscle, which would make his movements slow and cumbersome, nor was he too skinny. He was lithe and powerful; a potent combination.

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?

The Waiting Game

You spend your life waiting. You expect to wait in line at the post office but other waits are less predictable.

Waiting might seem like a waste of time. But becoming good at it is useful. It helps to lower the frustration that wells up when you’re forced to bide your time.

What strategies can you use to make waiting a pleasant and productive experience?

Be prepared

Develop the ability to shift when a delay occurs. Change your expectations. Have the foresight to use your newly found ‘free time’ to do something useful. Like writing a to-do list, for example.

Observe

Take a look around a waiting room. Most people apart from the very old, very young or very stubborn will be hunched over their phone. Probably trying to beat their Candy Crush high score.

While you wait, watch others. There is a lot to be learnt from observation as any infant will attest to. How does body language differ? What actions are producing positive outcomes that you can emulate? And what should you avoid? Detecting subtleties and applying what you’ve learnt will make you more effective in your future interactions.

Waiting is an opportunity. Next time you miss a flight, don’t curse the sluggish baggage crew, thank them for the chance to hone your people skills.

The Clarity That Comes With A Cold

There is a distinct unpleasantness that arises when illness rears its ugly head.

First, you put on the victim’s hat, demanding “Why me?”. Next, comes denial, “I’m not sick. This runny nose? Well, I haven’t dusted in some time. Yeah, that explains it.” Then begins the blame game: “If it wasn’t for that sniffling Kevin, I wouldn’t be in this predicament. Now I have to suffer!”

As the sickness settles in, you realise you’ll be spending the next few days laying low. This is where the most telling thoughts make their way into our consciousness. Despite hating your job, you covet the thought of working. You haven’t exercised in weeks but now can’t wait to get back in the gym.

Illness is a great leveller. It puts everything into perspective. Despite your clogged sinuses may, your mind is clear. You realise you were taking life for granted. You promise yourself, “Never again.” You vow to approach life with zeal – once you can breathe out of your left nostril.

With time, the cold subsides. It no longer feels like you’re swallowing loose change with every gulp. As you recover, your outlook on life is a little different. You hold the door open for strangers. The gym becomes a second home. You look to make the most of life. But it doesn’t last. It might be weeks or even months, but soon holding the door open becomes a chore. You’d rather get a tooth extracted then spend another minute exercising. What can you do to maintain the sickness-induced mindset?

Reminders

Has a quote struck you with such intensity that it knocked you off your feet? No? Me neither. But you’ve felt the impact a good quote can have on your day.

Once a quote or moment activates that golden mind state, act fast. Write down how you feel: what was the trigger? Find time each day to review your thoughts. Soon, the quote will lose meaning. So before it does, find a new thought, quote or piece of media that produces a similar head space. Continue this cycle until a positive mind state becomes a habit. You’ll no longer need a cue like you don’t need to think about technique when brushing your teeth.

Apply yourself in this vain for months. At least 6 to be safe. Good luck.

Eat Freely

A hallmark of healthy eating is restricting ‘unhealthy’ foods like pizza, pancakes and pop tarts. People who take ‘healthy eating’ to the extreme are faced with a dilemma when they eventually succumb to an unhealthy food.

They binge, feel remorseful and then reinstate their eating restraints to make amends.

The binge

Overeating often occurs because…

  • The damage is done. You’ve eaten something that breaks your rules so eating more of the same won’t make a difference
  • A fear of scarcity. It’s ironic, given the abundance of food in developed countries, a fear of lack could drive your eating habits. From an evolutionary standpoint, the ‘feast or famine’ mindset makes sense. Prior to the agricultural revolution, food wasn’t a sure thing; humans relied on scavenging and food intake fluctuated wildly. The same instincts kick in when you indulge in a glorious glazed doughnut. Your primitive brain thinks: ‘This might be the last opportunity I get to eat a doughnut, so I better eat as many as I can!’

How do you override the binge mindset that leaves you feeling guilty and with an impending sense that your guts will literally explode?

The solution: let yourself eat whatever you like, whenever you like. Within reason of course.

By following the 80/20 principle, eating ‘healthy’ 80% of the time, the remaining 20% can be spent on foods you have a hankering for but aren’t nutritious. It changes your definition of a ‘successful’ day’s eating and lets you eat previously restricted foods, removing the stigma.

Adopting this mindset is a challenge but the long-term payoffs are worth it. You might feel like you’re breaking the law when you eat freely but it’s a sustainable and healthy strategy while bingeing is not.

Redefine your definition of healthy eating and allow it to include some indulgence.

Why Is Planning So Challenging?

Plan ahead; be prepared. Apart from that magical time around New year’s, planning is often forgotten.

The problems surrounding planning are:

  • Presence – how can you remain ‘in the moment’ when your thoughts are occupied by the future?
  • Foresight – hindsight is twenty-twenty but there are no certainties in the future so how can you prepare for what it has in store?
  • Keep track – you’ve planned ahead but how do you stay on the right path?

You need to strike a balance. Most of your time should be occupied by the present, though failing to plan is like a ship with no destination; aimlessly floating about the seven seas.

Also, reassess often and adjust as things change. Regular reminders, like mobile apps, can help with accountability.

Like a captain uses a map and a compass to find land, planning helps to guide you toward your goals.

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.