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August 2018

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Issues around mental health are such a puzzle. Especially with middle aged men.

84 men kill themselves each week in the UK. 12 every day. A 2017 Samaritans report revealed 6,639 suicides in the UK and the Republic of Ireland in 2015. 4,997 (75%) were men. The highest rates of suicide were in the 40 – 44 age band.

Anti Depressants

I was on anti depressants about 8 years ago when I was 42. For a day or two. Then I stopped. I decided to see how I’d do with just counselling because the medication caused me to have an immediate and dramatic dip. After a couple of months, the storm – and the issues (all my fault) that were the catalyst for the storm – passed.

Told You So

During that time however, I’d occasionally drive stupidly. So irresponsible and cowardly was I that I actually entertained the idea that dying in a car crash would be the most balanced and ‘right’ solution for me. ‘Right’ because, if it happened, it was fate playing a part. This allowed me to take no responsibility at all for my own life. Or anyone else’s.

Neat!

So if I’d have died, my shitty view of myself would have been verified in no uncertain terms.

“‘Told you I was worthless. I’m dead.”

Look Closer

I have no idea what to do about the depression and suicide problem. Asking people how they are is too simple. It may be part of the solution but it’s not the full story.

When I was depressed I was highly skilled in radiating OK-ness when, behind my eyes, I was – from time to time – totally indifferent about being here at all. So much so that the gap between me smiling and saying I was OK, and not being here, could have been literally seconds. I could have been whistling as I exited.

This kind of thing seems impossible to fathom. I don’t know what to do about it. Trying to look closer – to see behind a person’s eyes to the truth – I don’t know how you do that.

But if I sense that anyone is troubled, I do intend to try.

The image at the top of this story is, I admit, rather dramatic. However it is a good indication of how quickly I and many others would swing from one extreme to another. Seconds.

In the time it takes you to spin it and read it upside down – I’d have changed.

I’m 50.

  1. The World Cup in 2022 will be in Quatar. I’ll be 54 on July 26th that year.
  2. The World Cup in 2026 will be in Canada. I’ll be 58 on July 26th that year.
  3. The World Cup in 2030 will be in Morocco. I’ll be 62 on July 26th that year.
  4. In the World Cup year 2034 I’ll be 66 on July 26th that year.
  5. In the World Cup year 2038 I’ll be 70 on July 26th that year.
  6. In the World Cup year 2042 I’ll be 74 on July 26th that year.
  7. In the World Cup year 2046 I’ll be 78 on July 26th that year.
  8. In the World Cup year 2050 I’ll be 82 on July 26th that year.
  9. In the World Cup year 2054, based on my (and your) probable life expectancy of 1000 months (83 years and 3 months), I’ll be dead.

So I probably have 7 or 8 world cups left before I die.

Bugger.

I wonder if they’ll have VAR working properly by then?

Is it possible to be too good at something?

As I get older I become increasingly experienced. That’s a given. And sometimes, should I apply myself, I become increasingly expert too.

It’s the same for you.

Well; I have a theory that we can become so good at something that we’re not very good at it any more.

This might be because we get bored of it so don’t get into the detail as much. Perhaps we over think or over analyse, stemming from all that accrued cleverness. So we don’t move with the speed, precision and care we once did.

Knowledge can bog you down.

Unlearning

At the moment I am missing some really basic things in my business and probably in my life as well. This is causing problems with momentum and simplicity.

I think it’s because my life is full of years. 50 of them. And these 5o years are each filled with 360-odd days of learning.

In one particular area of my business I have to unlearn things quick. So I am watching and learning from people 20 years younger than me with nowhere near the experience. In many areas, they are achieving much more than I am.

Maybe they’re just better than me. Or maybe I have become so good at knowing about it that I am not that good at doing it .

Maybe I have to explore the idea that, just because I’ve done something for years, it doesn’t mean I’ve got better at it.

Take taxi drivers. They’re on the roads longer than any of us. And when it comes to actually driving – they’re shit.

Time for some serious unlearning, I think.

INGREDIENTS

  • 450g plain flower.
  • 1 teaspoon of salt.
  • 8 eggs.
  • 600ml milk.
  • About 8 tablespoons of virgin olive oil and a bit of butter.
  • Salt and pepper.
  • Nutella.
  • Peanut butter (smooth or crunchy).

METHOD
This is 15 minutes of doing things whilst the oven reaches temperature. Fit this in or around whatever else you’re cooking.

  1. Get 2, 12-hole, 1 inch deep cake tins and put a bit of olive oil into each of the 24 holes. Then add a tiny bit of butter as well. And a pinch of salt and pepper to ONE tray of 12. Put them in the oven.
  2. Heat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade or gas mark 6.
  3. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add all the eggs and half the milk. Beat for about 3 minutes until you have a smooth batter.
  4. Add the remaining milk. Beat for a further 2 minutes and leave.
  5. When the oven is at temperature (after 15 minutes), beat the batter for 1 more minute.
  6. Take the trays out of the oven. They should be sizzling. In the UNSEASONED tray add a teaspoon of peanut butter to 4 of the holes,  a teaspoon of Nutella to 4 of the holes and a teaspoon of both peanut butter and Nutella to the remaining 4 holes. Distribute the batter evenly across the 24 holes and put back in the oven for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them through the glass door (don’t open the door until the end or they’ll likely collapse). Once they rise and go to a deep brown across about 50% of the surface they’re done.

This is enough for about 24 quite big Yorkshire Puddings. 12 savoury. 12 sweet. Remember which are which.

(I am probably suggesting you do things you already do, or have done before. There is value in this though. Because I am reenforcing that you are also a culinary genius like what I is).

Arse

Yorkshire Puddings are a right pain in the arse to prepare for. All that faffing about.

And then the stress starts. Sometimes they come out like balloons. Sometimes like bloody Play-Doh.

They affect me mentally also. I talk to them as they are cooking, both collectively and individually. I kneel down with my palms on the kitchen floor, crab-like. Everyone stays out of the kitchen at this point. I insist on this (though I am almost always ignored).

I peer through the glass and address the soon-to-be Puddings collectively:

“C’mon. C’mon. C’mon. C’mon. C’mon. C’mon. C’MOOOOOON!”

And individually:

“You. You. You. He’s rising. Why aren’t YOU rising? You’re in the same fecking oven. Shit we need a new oven.”

Things like that. Head to one side. Still on my knees.

24

I like these 24 little things though. Lisa smiles when he gets them. She says she’ll just have 2 (then ‘just has 4’). Izobel isn’t sure what they are yet (she’s 2) so gives them to the Colin or Frank (dogs). I am going to see what she thinks about the Nutella ones for the first time today though. I’ll report back.

Later on, Lisa then remembers the sweet ones so has ‘just 2 more’ (which means ‘just 4 more’). Then Lisa runs around and jumps up and down for the following three days to work them off. (However the remaining 12 or so Yorkshire Puddings in the fridge somehow disappear in the coming days too… So I’m not sure how that works).

Busy

Anyhow, forget all that. In the real world, I am far too busy for all of this. It’s just food and you can buy Yorkshire Puddings frozen. I’m too busy to spend buggering about with home made Yorkshire Puddings with the family. I run two businesses. I have meetings. People rely on me doing things so they can do things too. I need as much certainty in business and in life as possible so why would I spend my precious time doing all of the above when I could end up with Pay-Doh? It doesn’t make any sense.

Two things

  1. That last paragraph is utter bullshit.
  2. I do it for the smiles.

If you’re happy doing what you’re doing that’s fine. If you’re not happy, it’s not. Life is far too short for you not to be happy.

We will all have some happy and some sad in our life but – on balance – we want more happy.

How To Get More Happy

I have a suggestion to help you to get more happy in any area of your life. It’s by doing something that, every time I have done it, it’s made me happy.

Move Someone

If I ‘move’ someone, it makes me happy.

By this I mean affecting someone emotionally in a positive way. Helping them to be calm, to see value, to see beauty or excellence. This kind of thing moves people. And their gratitude moves me. And it makes me happy.

Here’s how the idea of moving people might fit into your life.

  • Does your work move people? Do you see people smile and feel lovely because of what you do for a living? The thing you get paid for.
  • Does anything you do voluntarily move anyone? Helping out someone. Anyone. Anywhere. For free.
  • Do you have conversations informally that move people? Do you ever steering the conversation you’re having around to making them feel really good?

I think you can do any of these things. Or all of them.

The biggy for me is the first one though. Your work. Because you spend a lot of time at your work. If your work does not move people then that’s a shame. Not just for them, but for you too.

Think Further

If you do a job or part of a job that on the face of it could never move anyone, maybe change how you look at what you do. Think further.

When people visit my office I try to be the best coffee shop in the world. We’re not. And we never will be. But I try. Cool coffee beans. Playing around with how to grind them freshly. Sourcing great coffee from people like Extract Coffee. Wee biscuits. Nice cups.

Or I could just plonk a mug of instant down of course. But that’s not going to move anyone.

Anyhow, that’s it. I just think that if you set out – tomorrow – to move people and lift their mood, you yourself will have a good day.

Try it. Let me know.

IMAGE: Happy people at Do Lectures, 2018. Wales.

Two things.

Firstly, this might be the most important little story on here if it is my intention to occasionally create a little bit of urgency so you take action.  And that is my intention.

Secondly, I refer to a video at the end of the story. If you are reading this story in your daily email (thank you for signing up to get these stories to your inbox every day) you won’t see the video. You will have to go here to see it. That’s where the video to which I refer later actually lives.

In fact, do that now if you can. And start reading this story at the actual website, from the top.

Gregarious

I am sometimes gregarious. And sometimes I am not gregarious. Sometimes I don’t want to go out into the world at all.

I hide.

Almost every single time I am gregarious, I have a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant time.

Almost every single time I am not gregarious, I wish I had been gregarious.

Connect

The opportunity for us to be gregarious and to connect is a gift. An absolute gift. A joy. A privilege. An honour.

Because when we connect with others we have the opportunity to create something magical.

To create something which has been proven over and over and over again to be the only recognised attributable contributor to true happiness in humans.

A relationship.

Relationships

Relationships are amazing.

Beautiful. Magical. Joyous. Brilliant. Relationships are an opportunity to give. To support. To please. To delight. To praise. To make someone feel amazing. To be interested. To listen. To offer help for absolutely nothing at all in return. To make someone feel valued and loved and adored. To make someone smile. To make someone really, really happy.

So please, make more relationships.

That’s it.

Make more relationships.

So that you and they can do all these good things to and for each other. That’s all I think you should do.

Make more relationships.

One reason

There is one reason above all others that you should make more relationships. I will end with that reason in a moment.

But before I do, please listen to this 90 second video (needs sound). For a few seconds at least. Ideally, keep listening as you read the last few seconds of this story.

This is beautiful birdsong. It is the male Kauai ‘O’o bird. And that should move you.

But what should move you more, is this:

This is the song of the last male Kauai ‘O’o in existence, singing at a partner that does not exist anymore. Recorded in 1987, this was the last time the song of this species was heard. It has since been declared extinct.

This is the last male bird of the entire species. He is trying his best to attract a female.

But there is no female.

There is no other Kauai ‘O’o.

There is no one.

He is the very last one. He sings in vain.

Soon after, naturally, there were no Kauai ‘O’o birds at all.

Because You Can

The one reason above all others that you should make more relationships, and encourage more people you know to make more relationships too – is because you can.

So please. Connect.

I will keep writing these stories for 10 years. Every day. So that’s about 3,650 stories in total.

I’m chronicling all of my 50s, unfiltered. I am trying to inspire you to do good things and not do lazy or stupid things. Normally by pointing out how stupid I’ve been so you can develop avoidance strategies or how, occasionally, I did OK so you can copy.

The only thing that might get in the way of me working my way through my 50s and my promise to write to you every day is if I become dead. There is a 30% chance of this happening. About 70% of men in the UK get to the age of 60 and about 30% don’t.  So even though I plan to be part of the majority, I may not be.

Therefore, if for whatever reason I become dead before July 26th 2028, I wanted to point out the rules of this website for you today.

THE RULES OF 50odd.co.uk

  1. If any of my chatter inspires you to make positive change of any kind – at any point – and I suddenly end up dead before the end of this 10 year project, the value I have added to your life is still valid currency. So if you say (something like), “Oooh, he died so I’ll not bother making an effort any more,” this is cowardly and stupid. So I’ll not allow you to get away with that. If you do take this cowardly and stupid direction I will haunt you from my dead place and cast a spell that will make you wet the bed. Forever.
  2. If I do end up dead before completing my 3,650 stories, Lisa will pin this story to the top of the blog for ever and trigger it to be sent to you, every day. So anyone (including you) that uses my sudden and early demise as an excuse for not embracing life fully will be reminded every day that you were doing great. So keep going.
  3. If you are by some quirk inspired to do positive things because of anything you read here, please remember you are doing it for you – not me – so whether I am alive or dead it doesn’t matter. Continue to treat yourself and other people well, push yourself, chase your dreams and please refer back to my tales of insecurity, inadequacy and the occasional success with a smile.
  4. And finally, please pass 50odd.co.uk on.  I’d consider as little as 100 stories (so about 3 months) to be a useful catalogue of tales. So if you know any other people that might benefit from my rhetoric, tell them about this website. You and they can sign up here to receive the stories that I write when I am alive, to your inbox, every day.  And as I am alive at the moment, you can act on this one immediately.

Thank you for reading.

If I am not dead tomorrow, I’ll write some more.

I met Elle Luna two months ago.

Elle is the author of a great book entitled, ‘The Crossroads of Should and Must‘. It’s a book about finding and following your passion. A global best seller, I believe.

Elle was a big influence on me for a few reasons. She is very approachable. Elle’s really pleasant to be around. We were together for three days on-and-off in Wales.

In this time, Wales, and Elle were always sunny.

Openness

Elle is also very open about her own experiences. Some of them are quite quirky and unusual. But she talked to me about pivotal moments in her life as if I were an old friend. Elle is a very warm and engaging person to be with. Unworried about what I or anyone might think of her based on what she was sharing.

Elle was unafraid. She was just being herself. I wasn’t sure how Elle managed to be so calm.

Maybe it’s because she practices what she preaches? Elle does what she feels she Must instead of what society suggest she Should do.

First Steps

Elle describes the first step towards doing what you Must do, here:

“If you want to live the fullness of your life—if you want to be free—you must understand, first, why you are not free, what keeps you from being free. The word prison comes from the Latin praehendere, meaning to seize, grasp, capture. A prison doesn’t have to be a physical place; it can be anything your mind creates. What has taken ahold of you? The natural process of socialization requires that the individual be influenced by Shoulds in order to function as a part of society. However, as you grow up, it is healthy to be self-aware about the Shoulds you inherited. You might value and keep some Shoulds, while others you might choose to discard. If you want to know Must, get to know Should. This is hard work. Really hard work. We unconsciously imprison ourselves to avoid our most primal fears. We choose Should because choosing Must is terrifying, incomprehensible. Our prison is constructed from a lifetime of Shoulds, the world of choices we’ve unwittingly agreed to, the walls that alienate us from our truest, most authentic selves. Should is the doorkeeper to Must. And just as you create your prison, you can set yourself free.”

I am grateful to Elle for introducing this idea to me – the idea that we’re all empowered to free ourselves from the prison of Shoulds – because we created the prison in the first instance.

And all I could introduced Elle to was a flat cap. Albeit very nice flat caps, though.

And Elle does look great wearing it I think.

You open your eyes and it’s a beautiful morning. 

As you lie there alone, staring at the ceiling, you think about who you might meet today. Who you might come face-to-face with. It’s exciting thinking like this. The idea of it makes your heart beat faster. It makes you smile.

The Window

Once you’re downstairs – you go to the window and peer out into the world. You see lots of wonderful people really clearly. You stand there, scanning the new faces.

There are so many people you could meet. That you could chat to. That you could be with. Or learn from. People that could teach you about themselves and, better still, about yourself. It’s amazing that you could change their lives and they could change yours.

You stand there for hours, dizzy with the possibility of it all.

The Mirror

It’s evening now and the sun is lower in the sky.  You’ve not moved from your window all day. You’re still excited at the thought of all those people  you could meet, stand toe-to-toe with and look in the eye.

But as the sun inevitably sets, you realise that your window is no longer a window at all. It is dark outside. And your window has become a mirror.

And the only person you’re looking in the eye – is you.

Go Outside 

When I closed my businesses four years ago,  I disappeared for a bit. I was frightened to go out and meet people – old and new. They were bound to ask me what I was doing. And why I was doing it. And none of that was clear. So I hid.

Eventually, I got myself back out there. I stopped looking through the window.

And it’s great.

Since starting 50odd I have chatted to a few people about their fear of either getting back out there or pushing themselves to do more or to be more. They are not sure where their fear came from. Or, in most cases, what they’re frightened of.

I just wanted to say that, in my experience, most people out there are really quite nice and will help you.

So if you’re stuck, go outside. Look for the good people. They will help you. And be open the the possibility that – because you are a good person too – they may already be looking for you.

This little story was inspired by my friend Pete Zulu.

I am 50.

When I was younger, I would probably have seen 50 as ‘over the hill’.  Now I’m here, I don’t.

Not because I am making the most of where I am (even though I am). It’s because I am having a ball and looking forward to every day.

So today I am going to gift you two things to say to anyone that, like a silly younger me might have done, suggests you are over the hill.

File these two suggestions away if you are not 50 yet.

Because one day – you will be.

Suggestion 1. What To Do If Someone Suggests You Are ‘Over The Hill’

Say:

“I am. I’ve eventually (thank God!) worked out how to have a ball, every day, skating down the other side. Downhill is so much easier than uphill. Anyhow, I’ll leave you to your too-long meetings and trying to stand on the next man to get up the hill. I remember all that from my hill climbing days. It was shit. Where I am now – because I choose the people I spend my time with – we just take each other by the hand and bowl down the hill together. Laughing our bloody heads off. Oh, and feck off.”

(Note: This is the aggressive version. And the ending is optional. It’s your journey).

Suggestion 2. What To Do If Someone Suggests You Are ‘Over The Hill’

Say:

“What hill is that? Is that the old metaphor about the hill of life? I am over that, as it happens. I was over it years ago. The metaphor, not the hill. Try it. It’s great. Oh, and feck off.”

(Note: This is the aggressive version. And the ending is optional. It’s your journey).

Have a cool Monday.

Michael.