Philosophy

We are the accumulation of our long term habits.

If you have long term bad habits, the best thing you can do for yourself and those you care about is to replace them with good ones.

Habits are the things you do which make you, you.

Sometimes people get habits confused with goals, or with jobs.

‘I’m going to write every day until I’ve written my book,’ is not a habit.

‘I’m going to write everyday,’ is a habit.

Any habit with an end date is not a habit.

Goals get accomplished when your long term habits are good ones. Good habits put you in the best position to do good work, and good work leads to accomplishing big goals.

Bad habits provide short term relief and stunt long term progress. They get in your way.

Identify your bad habits and turn them into good ones.

Mine worst habit at the moment is c(ocaine)reating mess when I’m stressed, so I’m trying to turn tidying up into something I do to relieve stress.

It’s going to be hard work forcing myself to do it, and even harder work to find joy in it.

But it’ll only be hard for another week or three, then I’ll be dusting for the hell of it.

Your brain is as malleable as you allow it to be. Grab it like a ball of play-dough and get to work.

If you’re still having trouble, harness the power of accountability. Tell ten people that you’re going to change, and you probably will.

If ten isn’t enough, tell more and more people until the thought of letting the all down, admitting defeat and telling them you’ve failed is so exhausting that you might as well just do the work and make the change.

When your habits serve your goals and keep you happy and healthy in the process, life is at its best. Don’t get complacent.

Be the change you want to see in yourself, then worry about the world.

(To be clear, I was joking about the cocaine.)

I woke up really sick today.

By my bedside, starting to go cold, was a mug of lemon and honey tea which set the tone for the rest of my day.

I feel like a gooey lump of snot, but it’s been much easier to deal with since seeing that mug.

Sometimes the kind things that people do are less impactful than the fact they went out of their way to do them for you.

It didn’t matter that the tea was going cold because the tea wasn’t what made me feel better. The tea reminded me that someone who loves me has my back, and if I neededed anything, I could ask.

There is overlooked power in these exchanges.

These little investments of time in one another is how we weave the fabric of social connection.

It’s how we bond, it’s how we trust, it’s how we love.

Invest in your relationships little by little every day.

It takes five minutes to make a cup of tea, to pick up some chocolate, or to tidy someone’s space.

If your effort generates more than five minutes worth of joy, you’ve created a net positive in the world.

Take five and do something kind for someone you care about.

What goes around comes around.

Become a person who thrives in times of change. Learn to harness change for your advantage.

Fall in love with the impending unknown.

Organisations, relationships and businesses collapse when the people involved become complacent.

Complacency is sin.

Improve your workflow, surprise your partner, do something unnecessarily kind for a friend.

Innovate something.

‘But why should I fix something that isn’t broken?’

Because if you’re unknowingly complacent, there’s no guarantee you’ll notice when it does start to break. And everything breaks.

Becoming a perpetual innovator is safer than being complacent in an up-till-now consistent system.

When things change for the worse, it usually comes as a surprise. There are times when we have no control over this.

Actively creating change for the better insures against those surprises.

Don’t become complacent. Don’t get caught off guard. Not in anything you do.

Instead, make a ruckus.

We all need mentors. They’re essential for growth, but they aren’t created equal.

An average mentor will give you a map; a detailed list of guidelines and instructions for how to get from A to B (where they assumedly are).

An excellent mentor will give you a compass; they’ll point you in a direction, warn you about the perils you may encounter along the path, and send you on your way.

“The type of mentors who tend to be the most helpful are those who don’t necessarily give you an answer, but they give you a better way of finding that answer.”

Tim Ferriss

An excellent mentor understand that your journey will not be the same as theirs was. Times change. Safe roads become perilous and vice versa.

Excellent mentors are less focussed on what you should do, and more focussed on dangers you should avoid as you navigate your own path.

Find people who model the life you want to lead and allow them to guide you, but never mould yourself into an exact replica of someone else. It’ll never work. Even if you follow their map religiously, you may find that you wield different tools.

You’re too much like you.

Mould your own excellence.

I was in a book store the other day and couldn’t help but laugh.

All within a foot of each-other, were five books in the ‘Self Improvement’ section with a variation of the word ‘fuck’ in the title.

I’m not sure what this says about the self-improvement industry, but after flicking through these titles for a few minutes, their shared message became clear;

Chill. The fuck. Out.

If life makes you feel like a hedgehog gathering speed as it rolls down a rocky hill, with no other option than to curl up into a tight little ball and hope for the best-

Stop.

Take a breath.

And chill the fuck out.

The world feels like it moves quicker than it actually does.

We’re fantastic at making ourselves feel like we’re the irreplaceable cog of some system; it could be an office job, a cricket team, or an online forum about winter melons which you’ve been wanting to leave for years, but haven’t due to fear of letting someone down.

Most of us feel like there’s some community out there which needs us to go on. To put our heads down and work, work, work, because if we don’t, who will?

The truth? Someone probably will.

Someone else could do your job. No matter how important it is, someone else could do it. No exceptions. Even if no-one else would, someone absolutely certainly, one-hundred-percent positively could.

At face value, this realisation can be bleak. Especially if what you do for, and mean to, other people is at the cornerstone of your identity.

Upon coming to terms with this realisation, we have a choice;

We can be sad about it, or we can use it to free ourselves.

If someone else could do what you do, you should only do the thing which you most want to do.

Think about this.

Calm down. Trust Sandra with the board papers. Trust Sasha to wicketkeep next game. Trust Rodney to handle the winter melon forum for a month or two… What’s the worst that could happen?

Do what you love to do.

F*ck everything else.

The only way to guarantee failure is to stop moving in the direction of your goal.

This seems obvious, but our brains are excellent at avoiding long term goals which involve uncertainty or risk. Too many of us find ourselves stuck doing things we don’t want to do, all the while convincing ourselves that we’ll start working towards our real goals when it becomes convenient.

Is there anything you’re planning to do when the time is right, or as soon as you’ve done ______?

Odds are that the time will never be right, and the thing you’re waiting to finish before you start working towards what you actually want to do will be replaced by another thing, then another, until the end of time.

If you want something, you need to walk at it, not around it.

The goals you set in order to get there need to be relevant to your long term vision.

Goals need to be achievable, but challenging enough to maintain focus and flow.

You need to be able to directly explain how your short term goals relate to the master plan; whatever it is you’re tacking towards.

Your master plan has to be tactile. If your long term goal changes, so should your short term goals.

Don’t be afraid of this.

If you lost your job tomorrow and had to rebuild, could you?

Of course you could. You would have to. The pressure to do so might actually be good for you.

If your long term goals don’t align with your current reality, it’s time to re-assess.

This is a reminder for myself more than for anyone else.

Put one foot in front of the next. Walk towards whatever it is which ignites you.

Fail, and persevere.

Don’t quit.

Get gritty.

How many books are sitting unread on your shelf?

I hope there are many.

Tsundoku, or ‘reading-pile’ in Japanese, is the word to describe a collection of purchased but unread books or reading materials.

Tsundoku harbours negative connotations associated with hoarding, but it shouldn’t. A pile of unread books of which you’re at least partially interested is a beautiful thing.

Tsundoko is a pile of opportunity.

Seize it.

Angel investor and philosopher Naval Ravikant reads 10-20 books at once.

How does he sustain this madness?

He gives himself permission to quit.

Naval doesn’t read books with the intention of finishing them. He reads a book for as long as it captivates him. If he tires of a book, he sets it aside.

If the first half of a book doesn’t want to make you read the second half, what’s to say it’ll be worth the same amount of time as the first?

But if he only reads what is most interesting to him, how does he ever finish anything?

He always picks another book up. He never stops reading.

He has built a habit around reading constantly. Books he puts down, he will often pick back up when he’s ready to return to it. Books he’s finished 15 times over, he’ll pick back up if it’s what he’s in the mood for.

Naval claims that the value of reading doesn’t lie in the books you read, but in the act of reading itself.

How do you build the same habit? He has a simple answer;

Read what you love until you love to read.

Naval Ravikant

Naval treats reading like I aim to treat ruckusmaking.

He gives himself the permission to ‘fail’, and continues to try until he gets what he wants.

He suggests you do the same.

Life is short, right?

But how many times have you looked at your phone today?

My answer is: too many.

“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.”

Lucius Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

The letters of Ancient roman philosopher and dramatist Lucius Seneca are core to the bedrock of stoic philosophy.

His stunning essay, On the Shortness of Life, is one of his most valuable works, and is perhaps more relevant now than it was when he wrote it.

Time is our most valuable resource. We all have much more time than anyone did two thousand, or even a hundred years ago, but we haven’t developed the skills to use that time optimally.

Midway through his essay, Seneca distills the three types of time we dance with;

“Life is divided into three periods, past, present, and future. Of these, the present is short, the future is doubtful, the past is certain.”

He argues that those who squander the present rarely reflect of the past, because to do so is to understand their failure to seize moments and opportunities which have passed them by.

The past is painful if you’re in the habit of wasting your time in the present.

Although, those who focus too narrowly on the present without considering the future, the ‘busy’ people, those slaving away doing something they hate crossing their fingers that it’ll all pay off in the long run, are at risk of squandering their drops of time too; for the future is inconsistent and lady fortune is largely unpredictable.

The past is precious, he claims;

“It cannot be disturbed or snatched from us: it is an untroubled, everlasting possession.”

So if you wasting time guarantees future despair, and being too ‘busy’ with things which do not guarantee a future worth slaving for is a recipe for tragedy – what’s left?

Ask yourself;

What can you do – this very second – which will guarantee that you will be able to look back on today with satisfaction tomorrow, a month, and ten years from now?

Put your phone down, and do that.

Can’t think of anything? Start by reading The Tao of Seneca; a stunning free e-book, and relish in the beauty of Seneca’s stoic mindset.

You can’t go wrong.

To read the full version of On the Shortness of Life, skip straight to page 215.

“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I have to go to work – as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for – the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book V

It seems some things never change.

The reflections on sleep in Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations (121-180AD) communicate a struggle many of us modern folk experience every day.

You’d think that almost two thousand years on, in the age of alarm clocks and automated light globes programmed to mimic the sunrise, good sleep hygiene would be conventional wisdom, and we’d all be leaping out of bed with a spring in our step, ready to tackle our days.

How is it that we are yet to master the thing we each spend one third of our lives doing?

In his private musings never intended for publication, Marcus wrestles against his better nature in defence his bed’s warm embrace;

“-But it’s nicer here…

So you were born to feel ‘nice’? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants, the spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what nature demands?

– But we have to sleep sometime.

Agreed. But nature set a limit on that-as it did on eating and drinking. And you’re over the limit.”

He argues that to deny the world your contribution is in contradiction to what it is to be human. It is human nature to contribute. That no matter who you are, you have something to offer – so offer it.

Perhaps harshly, he continues to reprimand himself;

You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you. People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash or eat. Do you have less respect for your own nature than the engraver does for engraving, the dancer for the dance, the miser for the money or the social climber for status? When they’re really possessed by what they do, they’d rather stop eating and sleeping than give up practicing their arts.

It is from this section I believe we have the most to learn from Marcus. His purpose – his art, was helping others. It was his mission. It’s what he loved to do. He charged himself with a lifelong sentence; help others. Falling prey to sloth got in the way, so he disallowed it.

We all have an art. We all have a purpose. We all have something to give.

I’ve tried all the gadgets, apps, and sleep-hacks you can think of to rise early and do work which I don’t love. None of it worked.

What I’ve discovered is that I can get out of bed at 5am every single day for one of two reasons; to write, or to do Jiu-Jitsu.

Currently, these are my missions. They energise and motivate me like nothing else. This is what I love to do.

Tell me, what are your missions?

If they aren’t worth prying yourself out of bed for, allow me to suggest that perhaps it’s time to revise them.

Make some ruckus. The world is waiting.

I was six months into training Jiu-Jitsu when I found myself standing across from my first opponent in a state-wide competition.

He had trained much longer, and I simply wasn’t on his level.

So he submitted me.

Looking back, I lasted much longer than perhaps I should have.

The fight taught me a valuable lesson. Not in the four and a half minutes of sloppily trying to defend myself while failing to implement the one technique I was half-good at, but in the opening ten seconds of the match.

The referee said ‘Combach!‘ And we were on. I locked eyes with my opponent as we each hesitated. We stared each other down for less than three seconds before my coach’s voice pierced my ear with a nugget of wisdom which has been bouncing around my head ever since;

‘Be first Luke. Be First!’

Without thinking twice, I took his advice. I closed the distance, took my grips forcefully, and executed the guard pull which I’d drilled for weeks leading up to the comp.

I caught my opponent completely un-prepared, and I had the fight where I needed it to be.

I created opportunity by seizing initiative.

I didn’t win, but I put myself in a position where I could have. A position I wouldn’t have found myself in had I not bitten the bullet and committed to action.

It’s unlikely that I would have lasted as long as I did had I not seized control of the fight at the start.

The importance of this extends far beyond losing Jiu-Jitsu fights slower than you could have.

We all have moments every day when we could use a coach to prompt us into action, but hiring someone to follow you around whispering ‘be first every forty seconds is expensive.

In life, we have to be our own coaches.

Remind yourself constantly.

Carpe diem translates to ‘seize the day’, but it means seize the moment.

Seize every moment possible.

You bump into a friend on the street and you’re both waiting for the other to extend their hand, or offer a hug?

You and a stranger are both politely waiting for the other to get on the bus, and now you’re holding up the queue?

Your lecturer asked a remedial question that everyone in the class should know the answer to, but nobody wants to risk answering?

Be. First.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, someone will be thankful you did.

What have you risked? Nothing.

The only think you’ve risked the one-in-a-hundred chance of an awkward three seconds, and you’re probably better for it.

Being first is always better than waiting for someone else to be.

Who’s the most decisive person you know? Who’s the most confident? Next time you see them, notice that they’ve made this a habit.

Try and think of one person you look up to who doesn’t put their front foot forward. Can you? I can’t.

Be first friends. Start now.