If you want to get somewhere there are many options open to you.
Fly in an plane,
Catch a train,
Take a boat,
Ride a bike,
Drive a car,
The first thing to consider is where are you right now, and where are you trying to get to? Are you just popping somewhere local, or travelling halfway around the world? A plane is faster than a car, but if you haven’t got far to go, or you don’t live anywhere near the airport then that extra speed is meaningless.
Then you have to consider the price vs convenience. Do you have the time to spare to take the slower but cheaper route, or are you in a hurry, so speed is the most important factor?
A family road trip across America would be an amazing experience – almost certainly better to do it in a camper van or RV, than in a much faster, more expensive Ferrari.
A hot air balloon is a very inefficient way to get from A-B, but if you want beautiful views on a nice clear day there aren’t many better options.
The final decision will come down to a variety of choices. You run into trouble when you consider only a single factor, like price or speed – because that could well lead you to make the wrong decision. If you’re running late for a job interview then I wouldn’t advise taking the cheapest option and being late. It will likely cost you more in the long run.
Point is, the best option on the surface isn’t always the best option once you consider all your requirements – and the right choice won’t be the same one every time. You could well be paying extra for things that just don’t benefit you in that scenario.
When you zoom in on a high definition image, suddenly the smallest details come sharp into focus, and you’re able to see things that would have otherwise remained hidden.
If on the other hand you try zooming in on a lower resolution image, all you’ll see is a blurry, out-of-focus blob – and you lose sight of what you’re looking at.
It’s easy to get caught up on the small details in life when we don’t have enough information to see as clearly as we need to. When you’re faced with a lack of detail, it’s important to understand that the best thing you can do is to zoom out and look at the bigger picture.
There are times when you need to fix something quickly – if you notice your car tyre is deflating, then it makes sense to get some air in it before you head off. But quick fixes should lead to problems solved. If you keep doing this, eventually the tyre will blow and you’ll have much bigger problems.
The issue arises when we use fixes as a default without ever actually solving the root cause. Going out and getting drunk after a rubbish week to cheer yourself up is a fix – and there’s nothing wrong with that every now and then – But if you have to do it every week because you don’t like your job, then it’s a problem. Fixes should only be temporary, and should always lead to solutions. The only way to make it work long term is to solve the problem and find a new job.
How many situations in your life are you making little fixes, instead of solving the problems? None of us will have to look too hard to find some.
The next time an issue comes up – ask yourself if you are just applying a quick fix, or whether you can take the time and energy to solve the problem.
From an early age, and throughout our lives we’re conditioned to try and avoid making mistakes at all costs. Mistakes are bad, and there’s no upside. Playing football as a kid, the first thing you’re taught is “if in doubt, kick it out” – meaning it’s better to give up possession rather than risk making a mistake.
This sends out the wrong message and creates problems down the line as children enter their teenage, and then adult lives. It is impossible to live a meaningful life without making plenty of mistakes.
Rather than avoiding them like the plague, mistakes should be viewed as opportunities to learn and grow. The things that are worth doing, are hard to do. The feedback of trying, failing, learning, trying again and succeeding is how you improve. Figure out where you went wrong, and go again.
The only mistakes that should be avoided are the ones you don’t learn from because these are the ones you will keep making over and over again. Fortunately, it’s entirely within your control to avoid them.
There is a phrase I like, and I try to adhere to it often. I’m sure you’ve heard “fake it till you make it”. The reasoning goes that by acting as if you have complete confidence you will appear more confident, and as a result you will be more likely to achieve the desired outcome.
Having to present to a room of 100 people feels much more intimidating than having to present to just 10 people, but the actual difficulty level is the same in both cases. In this situation, by faking confidence – smiling, holding eye contact, solid ‘A’ stance – the chances are it will go much better than if you look at the floor, mumble and generally look like you’d rather be anywhere else in the world. Even if that’s exactly how you feel inside.
Alternatively, sailing a boat along the coast on a nice summers day isn’t overly challenging for a novice sailor, but if you tried to cross an ocean you will quickly run into trouble unless you have vast experience. Acting like you know what you’re doing in that situation would almost certainly have disastrous consequences. Far better to build up your ability gradually before taking such a big step up.
These are two fairly extreme examples, but often in life, we get these types of situations mixed up and deal with them in the wrong way. “Fake it till you make it” won’t work for everything.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the workplace. You will find plenty of people who are afraid to test themselves and push to the next level, falsely believing that they aren’t ready or good enough to succeed. They find themselves trapped and frustrated.
You will also find people who have all the confidence in the world, and talk a great game, but don’t have the knowledge or experience to deal with tough situations. When push comes to shove they find themselves completely out of their depth.
It’s important to understand the situation in which you find yourself, and know whether you can push through the discomfort and come out the other side, or if you need to take a step back, and gain the skills you need to get to where you need to go.
We all know someone who just seems to have rotten luck right? No matter what they do, they just can’t catch a break and everything goes wrong for them. They’ll be the one to tell you about how unsafe it is to drive a car or fly a plane, and how everything on the internet is horrible and negative.
And we all know another person who is always super positive. Everything just seems to fall into place for them. They constantly seem to meet really interesting people, and their plans are full of nice surprises. They only see the good in each situation.
We all live in the same world – a world that’s equal parts wonderful and terrible. Many of us are having a similar experience, so how is it that two people could see it so differently?
Someone who defaults to negative thoughts, who thinks that only bad things happen to them, that the world is against them, and they never get any luck will be looking out for all the bad stuff – and every time they see it, their viewpoint will be reinforced. The slightest challenge becomes a mountain to overcome, and further proves that life is a cruel game.
But the opposite is also true.
Someone who sees the world in a positive light, assuming that people are friendly and experiences are good will find that too. And every time they get a smile from a stranger, or an outcome is positive, their viewpoint will be reinforced. The slightest challenge becomes an opportunity to grow.
By looking out for something, chances are that is what you’ll find. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you tell yourself you’re going to have a shitty time, you probably will.
Of course, it’s impossible to be positive all the time. Life will throw you some curve balls, and there isn’t a whole lot you can do to avoid some of them. What you can do something about is how you choose to react. By keeping hold of the negativity, and carrying it around with you the chances are that will impact the rest of your experiences. It is rare for an experience to be entirely positive or entirely negative, but by focusing on the good, it’s likely you’ll have a far happier time.
As the saying goes, when you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. It’s a lovely thought, but I’m not sure I can get on board with it entirely. Many people are not living the life they think they want, the Instagram life that looks like an extended highlight reel of happiness. Never a quiet moment.
If perfection is what you’re after, then I’m sorry to say but you’re in for some disappointment. Perfect doesn’t actually exist (and if it did, it would be quite dull after a while). Life is not all sunshine and rainbows – it can sometimes be difficult, and boring, and painful, and a bit of a grind – but that is the balance of life. You can’t have ups without downs, it’s the bits in between that are where we find our growth. If you think of the best moments of your life, they are usually as a result of overcoming some adversity or pushing yourself past where you thought you could go. Those are the truly rewarding moments in life.
In reality, very few of us will get paid to do the thing we love the most, and fewer still will get paid enough to actually live on. The key is to find rewards in the ordinary aspects of life. Regardless of what your job is, if you can find the challenge in it, and have a degree of control over the decisions you make then you can be fulfilled.
Sports icons and movie stars have some of the most envied jobs in the world, but assuming that playing the sport, or acting is the best part of those jobs, consider how much time they actually get to spend doing that. The dream job for most young guys is that of a professional footballer. They only spend 90 minutes a week (assuming they are even in the team) doing the fun bit of their job. Assuming a normal full-time job is 40 hours a week that translates to less than 4% of their time. The rest is spent either having to do the same drills over and over again on the training ground, or else sitting on coaches and aeroplanes, or spending several nights in some hotel room away from their family. Now don’t get me wrong, they have a very enviable lifestyle – and they get paid an absolute fortune for the privilege – but there is also a lot of boring stuff they have to go through as well.
It can be easy to glance enviously someone else’s life, thinking how fortunate they are, but the chances are you’re only seeing the very best bits. You don’t get to see the other 96% of the time, filled with the same stretches of boredom and grind that we all experience at some stage. Once you realise that, then you can see the wonderful opportunities that are available in all our lives.
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes in the world, which I think perfectly sums things up:
“It’s the silence between the notes that makes the music”
It used to be that major TV shows were treated like proper events. The nation would tune in together at the same time, creating these water-cooler moments that dominated the conversation the next day. The excitement would build as the week went on until we could enjoy the next episode. Television, when done right, has the power to connect people like few other mediums are able to do.
Since the likes of Netflix came along with box set bingeing these moments are increasingly rare. Now we expect a series to be released in its entirety, for us to feast on when and however we like. A seemingly endless list of programmes to watch makes it almost impossible to get through before the plot twist in the finale is thoughtlessly revealed by Jeff from Finance.
While it is so much easier for us now, we’ve lost that shared experience, that connection. Witnessing a cliffhanger ending, knowing that you have a whole week to wait before you find out what happens creates a powerful link to the viewer. Now you don’t even have to watch the whole end credits before you’re nudged to watch the next episode right now! Very few of us have the willpower to say no, and before you know it you’ve finished the series – on to the next one.
This opens the door to a lot of very mediocre shows, as they can be watched before you even realise you just wasted 15 hours of your life on something rubbish. Time is our most precious resource, yet we are all guilty of giving it away to things that don’t deserve it. I still love TV and I always will. But by being more conscious in my choices and not mindlessly consuming it means I really appreciate the few shows that I do still watch, and I have more time to spend on other activities that bring value to my life. Are there any shows that you know aren’t doing anything for you, but you keep watching anyway? If so, maybe it’s time to make a change.
In 2003, a little-known band released their debut album, without much fanfare or expectation. ‘Permission To Land’ was the album, The Darkness was the band. Overnight they became a household name, playing major venues across the world, and though largely seen as a bit of a joke, they were undoubtedly talented musicians who created an album unlike anything else at the time- packed full of great riffs and earworm choruses. Permission To Land is still one of my all-time favourite albums; impossible to listen to without a big grin on my face.
Two years later, the follow-up, ‘One Way Ticket To Hell…And Back’ was released and, well, flopped. A couple of half decent songs weren’t quite enough to make up for the rest of the album, which lacked all of the charm and fun of the original. As quickly as they had burst onto the scene, The Darkness disappeared into obscurity. The wheels had already started coming off by this point, with lead singer Justin Hawkins eventually having a bit of a breakdown.
This situation is far from unique to The Darkness. Known variously across the world as either the ‘sophomore slump’, ‘second album syndrome’ or ‘second-year blues’ this phenomenon refers to when a follow-up album (or film, book, athlete, sports team) fails to hit the heights of the debut effort. A quick google will reveal countless lists of examples, from The Strokes to The Stone Roses. Seemingly the more successful the debut, the harder it is to follow. Lightning doesn’t strike twice as they say.
On one hand, the first effort has been crafted over a lifetime, and without the expectation has been crafted lovingly from a place of truth. The follow up however will only have a year or two, and often less, to try and capitalize on the ‘buzz’. But if the talent is there, then why should the quality drop off so much between efforts? I think the problem comes when the focus is lost. Very few people create with the expectation of becoming rich and famous. They do it because they love it – because it’s what they feel in their heart. Once they start believing the hype, they’re no longer creating what they feel, they’re creating what will be the most successful. They stop trying to make another great piece of work and instead try to make what they think others will want.
Money is a great servant but a terrible master.
The people who avoid second album syndrome are the ones who stay true to themselves, the ones who make what they make for themselves, and no one else. Most of us will not experience creating something which is beloved by millions, but it’s still easy for us to get caught up in our own hype. If you find yourself at a crossroads, remember what got you started in the first place. Do what you do because you love doing it, not for any other reason. Being distracted by things outside of your control like money or what other people might want will nearly always end up in failure.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, this story has a happy ending. The Darkness are still going. After several stints in rehab, lineup changes and infighting, they took a further 7 years to release their third album, and while it was hardly a commercial success it was at least critically appreciated. Now sober, happy and healthy, they have continued to release a new album every couple of years and touring regularly. They remembered why they became musicians in the first place, and once again make the music they want to make.
But there is one sure-fire way to guarantee failure:
You never started.
The first step is always the hardest because you have it all to do, but once you make a start, you have something to build on. The momentum makes each new step that little bit easier.
Of course there will be hard times, and unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee success, but with every step in the right direction, you have the experience of all your previous steps to learn from and improve on.
As the saying goes ‘the things you regret most in life are the risks you didn’t take’. If you don’t try anything then technically you will also never fail, but what kind of life would that be? When all is said and done, you will feel more fulfilled having given it your best shot. So, what’s in the way of you starting something?