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LOVE & LIFE

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Rubbernecking is an unfortunate human trait.

It’s morbid curiosity.

It’s investing an inappropriately large amount of your attention.

Looking at.

Or thinking about.

Something or someone that you shouldn’t.

Rubbernecking wastes your time.

And shows you something you really didn’t want to see anyway.

Rubbernecking is a bit daft.

Car Crashes. 

Car crashes spawn rubbernecking.

But there is another kind of rubbernecking that is just as silly.

It’s the rubbernecking I sometimes do in my everyday life.

It’s paying attention to and thinking about those that impact my life negatively.

Paying attention to and thinking about those that might not like something I say.

Paying attention to and thinking about those that might not like something I do.

This kind of rubbernecking is just like that other kind of rubbernecking.

It is investing an inappropriately large amount of my attention.

Looking at.

Or thinking about.

Something or someone that I shouldn’t.

It wastes my time.

And it also shows me things that I really don’t want to see anyway.

This kind of rubbernecking is a bit daft too.

Look ahead. 

So this year.

I’m going to look straight ahead.

Paying attention to and thinking about those in my life that inspire me positively.

Paying attention to and thinking about those that encourage me.

Paying attention to and thinking about those that lift me up.

Because all kinds of rubbernecking.

I think.

Are just a bit daft.

I was wondering.

That thing you do.

That thing you spend most of your time and energy on.

That thing you invest most of your money into.

If you were doing it for an audience of one.

Who would that person be?

An Audience of One. 

In Srinivas Rao’s book, ‘An Audience of One.’

Srinivas explores the idea that we should create solely for ourselves.

For a whole host of reasons.

Reasons. 

Here are a few.

Unfair and inappropriate judgements disappear.

Pressure can disappear.

Misunderstandings throughout any creative process can disappear.

And Srinivas also explores the idea that if you have an audience of one.

And that person is you.

You can create far more than you need.

If you want.

You can fail.

If you want.

And learn from that failure.

You can go off piste and be truly off-the-wall creative.

If you want.

Because you can tweak any brief as-you-go.

Or shelve any amount of ideas ideas until you feel like giving them air again.

And if you do create just for you.

You can be fearless.

And maybe never show any ideas to anyone.

Ever.

Not if you really don’t want to.

So that the feeling of freedom in your creativity.

Is huge.

Pure.

And endless.

Who?

‘Sounds good to me.

And so long as what you are doing makes sense.

To at least some of your intended audience.

(If indeed you have an intended audience).

You’ll be fine.

Joy and Fun.

And you’ll find joy and have fun along the way too.

And joy and fun.

In my opinion.

Are worth much more than critical acclaim or financial gain.

An Interesting Question

So.

Who is your audience of one?

Before you consider anyone else.

I really do hope that your audience of one.

Is you.

My friend.

Is a magician.

Help. 

He is a magician because he makes me do things for him.

He makes me want to go out of my way to help him.

He makes me want to invest time in him.

Thinking nothing of what I might get back from him.

And he gets all of this from me.

For free.

And I can sense him making it all happen.

Just.

Like.

Magic.

Trick.

But like all magic.

It’s a trick.

And here’s how he does it.

Whenever I see him.

He asks me if he can help me with anything.

And he means it.

He is not asking me this question so that I do anything in return for him, either.

He actually wants to help me.

That’s it.

Authenticity.

Such authenticity is rare.

There is no notion of transaction.

Or exchange of any kind.

And it is disarming.

So disarming that.

Like a virus.

His generosity towards me breeds my generosity towards him.

So the harder he tries to help me.

The harder I try to help him.

And so it goes on.

Both of us looking after each other.

Both of us looking out for each other.

Our friendship strengthening as-we-go.

Our businesses strengthening as-we-go.

And a strange glow around any work we do together, too.

Because it is layered with mutual respect.

And admiration.

Kindness. 

Kindness.

Breeds kindness.

So wouldn’t it be good if everyone could weave this kind of magic.

From today.

Oh!

They can.

In 2019.

After meeting a lady just once.

And chatting with this lady for just about an hour.

I gave her a nickname.

In my head.

I called her ‘Tanklady’.

Hurt.

I called her Tanklady because she doesn’t let anyone in.

I think that she doesn’t let them in in case they say something that would hurt her.

Or in case they do something that would hurt her.

But what she doesn’t realise is that because of her tank.

She is also shutting out all of the people that could be saying something really nice to her.

Or all of the people that could be doing something really nice for her.

And she is also missing the fact that because she herself.

As a woman.

Is really lovely.

What a shame it is that she is in there.

Alone.

In the dark.

Only popping her head out from time to time.

To chat to the likes of me.

Battles. 

It’s understandable I suppose.

Because Tanklady has fought battles.

And some of them.

She has lost.

War.

I hope that as we enter a new year.

Tanklady realises that you only really need a tank in a war.

And that we are not in a war.

Maybe Tanklady will realise that life just feels that way sometime.

Because they get all the breaks.

And we don’t.

(At least that’s how it feels to Tanklady.

Because she compare herself too many times.

To too many of the wrong kinds of people).

2020.

I think Tanklady chooses only to compare herself to people she thinks are better off than herself.

To suit her own script.

And to suit her own view of herself.

When in actual fact.

There are many, many people much less lucky and lovely than she is.

That she could compare herself to.

And that she could help out, as well.

Because whilst Tanklady is focusing on the few people she sees as better than herself.

She isn’t noticing all of the people that are looking up at her.

Or looking up to her.

Wishing they had what she has.

Or that they could do what she does.

Or that they could be where she is.

With her, even.

I guess that’s the way it is when you’re inside a tank.

You miss things.

And life’s too short to miss things.

Tanklady. 

Tanklady.

If you see her.

Please.

Be sure to let her know.

Sometimes.

With almost anything I do.

I think that it.

And I.

Are not good enough.

Strange.

This is strange.

Because it’s rarely what I am doing that’s the problem.

The real problem.

Is what I am thinking.

And whether those thoughts are confident.

Or unconfident.

Confidence. 

I’ve read lots about confidence.

Where it comes from.

Where it goes to.

Its illusiveness and its power.

I find the subject of confidence fascinating.

Liam Gallagher. 

I was talking to a friend about confidence recently.

And we chatted about Liam Gallagher.

The archetypal, confident, swaggering manc.

The type that really doesn’t give a shit about anyone or anything.

Except.

Of course.

He does.

Commercial Success.

Liam cares a lot what people think.

So much so that he only felt that he was on his way back.

After Oasis and Beady Eye.

When his first album had commercial success.

Did Liam Not Know?

‘As You Were’ is a pretty good album.

Did Liam not know that, though?

Why did he need consumers to tell him that it was good enough?

Opinions. 

Opinions are important.

Of course they are.

But in most cases it really does pay to care less about what others think.

Not because you are rude.

Or arrogant.

But because everything that anyone else thinks is always loaded with.

Well.

‘Something’.

Something.

That something could be jealousy.

Their mood.

Their intellect.

Or a simple misunderstanding of what you are saying or doing.

Or why you are saying or doing it.

Good Enough. 

You decide what’s good enough.

Set your own goals.

And your own vision.

Don’t listen to them.

But do aim high, I’d suggest.

Aim to change the world.

Seriously.

And when people laugh at you for having the temerity to aim higher than anyone else ever.

Don’t listen to that, either.

Each year.

I stand on the same bridge.

Thinking the same things.

This Year.

Well this year.

As I once again stand on the very same bridge.

I’ve actually acted on my thoughts.

And I’ve distilled them.

All of them.

Down to one simple notion.

The Bridge.

The bridge I am referring to.

Is the bridge of 6 days that lead me from one year.

To the next year.

So it’s the bridge of 6 days from December 26th to December 31st.

One Simple Notion.

The one simple notion that I will take with me.

Over the bridge.

From 2019 to 2020.

Is this:

I am under very little pressure apart from the ones I put on myself.

I think this will help me in 2020.

Because I am at my weakest.

My most panicky.

My most upset.

And riddled with the most self-doubt.

When I feel under pressure.

Change. 

So here are a few things I’ll change.

  • Say ‘no’ more.
  • Allow slightly longer to do most things.
  • Create regular gaps where I always do absolutely nothing at all.
  • Never book meetings on Friday.
  • Build fitness into my life rather than trying to squeeze it in somewhere.
  • Turn my phone off for at least 8 of the 10(ish) hours that I work each day, Monday to Friday.

That’ll do for starters.

2020.

All of this seems obvious to me.

And so much easier to see and do.

When I am stood on The Bridge

So all I need to do now.

Is to remember those feelings.

When I get to the other side.

Happy 2020.

I think that never trying to be a Superhero.

Is as ill-advised as always trying to be a Superhero.

Superheroes.

Never being a Superhero.

Means never pushing to the edges of your life.

(And the best stuff is always at the edge).

But always trying to be a Superhero.

Well.

That’s exhausting.

Time Out.

One of a raft of mistakes I made in 2019.

Was trying too hard and too often to be a Superhero.

(Everybody needs time out.

Even Bob Parr*).

So as we move into 2020 I have decided to relax more.

I’ll still try to be a Superhero from time to time, of course.

But I will also remove my imaginary lycra completely from time to time.

And just be ‘off’.

Off. 

When I am ‘off’.

I can repair.

Rejuvenate.

Restore.

So that when I am needed to do important, time critical things.

I am ready.

Better prepared to come up with magic rather than just solutions.

Because I know that if I am bouncing from thing to thing to thing.

I am not looking for magic.

I am just looking to ‘get things done’.

2020. 

So that’s it for me for 2020.

More downtime.

So that when I am called upon to be a Superhero.

Or when I decide that Superherodom is for me.

I am more ‘Mr. Incredible’.

Than ‘Mr. Incapable’.

Happy 2020.

 

*Here’s Bob Parr.

This Christmas.

The present that made me think most.

And that made me smilecry.

(‘Made up word.

But you know what it means).

Was a book that I bought for Izobel.

Called ‘The Fate of Fausto’.

The Fate of Fausto.

Here’s the epigraph.

There was once a man who believed he owned everything and set out to survey what was his.

“You are mine,” Fausto said to the flower, the sheep and the mountain, and they bowed before him.

But they were not enough for Fausto, so he conquered a boat and set out to sea…

The story is powerful.

The ending is better.

It is wonderfully illustrated too.

For children from 3 to 100.

Take a closer look: https://www.oliverjeffers.com/the-fate-of-fausto.

One Christmas Day.

In my early 20s.

My ‘early grown up’ years, if you like.

I found myself sat around a strange table.

In a strange house.

With strange people.

Pushing turkey around a plate.

Floating.

A couple of half-mouthfuls into the meal.

I sensed myself floating.

Well, it felt like floating.

Because as the conversation ricocheted around me.

And across me.

I became aware that I hadn’t looked up from my plate for a good two minutes.

I became aware that I was pushing food around my plate.

I became aware that I felt alone.

Tears.

And it was part way through one of these plate-stares that I felt the stinging in my eyes.

And the warm tears rolling down my face.

Just a couple of them.

And I remember thinking:

I hope no one noticed that.

And I also remember thinking:

Actually.

I hope they did.

Alone.

My new girlfriend was sat to my right.

But I didn’t know her, of course.

She was new.

We were new.

And the beautiful, perfectly Christmassy room.

Packed with her uncles, aunts, mum and dad, sisters and brothers was all new too.

And I remember thinking.

That it’s funny how you can feel so alone.

When you’re not alone.

The Invitation.

It had seemed like a good idea at the time.

A new girlfriend inviting me to her place.

For Christmas Day.

Especially because the house I shared with my friends in Newcastle was empty over the Christmas period.

And especially as my mum’s house contained my drunk, bullying coward of a stepdad.

So when the invitation came.

I went.

Grown ups.

I want to go home.

I thought.

I didn’t say it out loud of course.

Grown ups can’t say things like that out loud.

Can they?

But then I thought to myself that.

No.

I didn’t actually want to go home.

What I actually wanted.

Was a home.

Home.

On Christmas Day in 2019.

I was sat in my home.

In an imperfectly Christmassy room.

With all the right people.

And my mind floated back 29 years.

To a 22 year old me.

A teary me.

A lonely me.

Sat in a perfectly Christmassy room.

With all the wrong people.

I thought about my journey.

From there.

To here.

I thought about the people I’d known that would make my homes over the years.

And I thought about the people I’d known that would break my homes over the years.

I tried to dilute the bitterness I can still taste so vividly.

With the pockets of happiness I remember so warmly.

During my teenage years.

And during every decade since.

And naturally.

I thought about The Smiths too.

Singing this: https://www.50odd.co.uk/home/.

 

For me.

The most difficult question.

So difficult that it panics me.

Has always been:

What do I want?

Difficult. 

Well.

After many years.

I’ve worked out why I find this question so difficult.

It is because when I hear it.

I twist it.

To become a slightly different question.

What Do I Want?

If I just left the question alone.

If I just left the question as:

What do I want?

I am comfortable with that.

I am comfortable that the answer includes certainty, Izobel, warmth, safety, home, dogs and a few really nice material things.

And I am comfortable with the addition of apparently conflicting elements such as a craving for uncertainty, adventure, risk, success, excellence and winning.

I can manage all that.

But once I twist the question.

To become a slightly different question.

That’s when I panic.

The Twisted Question. 

Here’s what I do.

I twist:

What do I want?

To become

What is everything that I will ever want?

And that’s where the problems start.

For me, at least

Everything. 

Ever is hard.

I don’t know about everything ever because I haven’t seen everything I am going to see yet.

I have not met everyone I am going to meet.

And I have not had to think about all of the things I am going to have to think about yet.

So I cannot answer the question:

What is everything that I will ever want?

Because I don’t know.

(Who does?)

Today. 

Today.

I have what I want.

But I definitely do not have everything that I will ever want.

And I have to remind myself of the difference between those two things.

Having what I want.

And having everything that I will ever want.

Because having what I want makes me feel safe and secure.

And not yet having everything that I will ever want makes me feel adventurous and alive.

And I need both.