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Made some changes…

I recently realised how I’d let myself drift along without being particularly happy for a while. My business life wasn’t progressing as quickly as I’d like, and despite making various plans when I resettled in Medway for a while, I hadn’t made much progress with them either.

Instead, I’d settled into some of the same old ways and routines, and somehow expected things to magically change.

 

Badgerfit

Trying to get fitter and healthier does have some perks…

A combination of recent illness and spending time with my son provided some wake up calls that nothing is going to change unless I actually make it happen…

And at the same time, I need to record the small improvements to keep myself motivated to keep going. That’s easier with logging work in the business apps we use, but my phone is too old to handle a bunch of additional fitness apps on it…

So to remind myself that I’m heading in the right direction…

  • Getting up earlier (7am or earlier is the target), and as a result, getting to sleep between 11am-midnight.
  • Making sure I have a list of important tasks written out before sleeping, and getting in a little bit of stress-free non-work reading (There’s some research somewhere about reading before bed helping to reduce overall stress).
  • So far I’ve cut cigarettes down from 10-15 a day recently to not smoking most days (Even with a couple of weekend slip ups, I’ve gone from 140+ in the last 2 weeks down to 20, saving around £60, and meaning that I sleep better without my snoring waking up everyone in a one-mile radius even when not coughing).
  • Focusing on 1-2 big tasks each day which make a difference
  • Eating a decent, healthy breakfast, rather than skipping it for a cigarette, and then trying to eat fairly healthy throughout the day. More protein and vegetables – less snacks.
  • Exercise – either a 20-30 minute walk minimum late morning/early lunchtime, or a bigger bike ride. The plan is to start adding some gym visits shortly.
  • Less time chatting about stuff on social media during the day, especially if it’s non-work related, and more time on actually getting work done. The using social media in the evenings to actually sort meeting up with people away from screens again…
  • Actually throwing out old things I don’t use, need, or have emotional attachment to. And any clothes which don’t pass the ‘it’s OK to be seen in public’ test.

None of it has been massive. The biggest initial challenge has been ignoring the cigarette cravings in favour of a tasty nicotine lozenge, and forcing myself to get out of the house rather than kidding myself I’m being productive aimlessly clicking around Facebook and Twitter.

Hopefully I’ll have the impetus to update more improvements by the end of April, but if nothing else, the fact that my son was impressed with my non-smoking is enough to keep going when he’s not here…

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Planning to escape…

EscapingAnxiety

Used to be on a card above my desk as a reminder which was too often ignored, until I finally sat down and started to replace old, bad habits with good new ones.

The trick is to know that the good new habits aren’t an end in themselves, and to be OK with the continual journey.

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Technology underpins and connects everything

Judging by the amount of social media shares, plenty of people were wondered ‘How Floyd Mayweather and Justin Bieber bonded over an app‘. TL:DR – they’re both investors in an app called Shots.

Celebrities from Ashton Kutcher to Will.i.am has invested in tech companies or developed tech products. It seems like years since Alica Keyes was signed up by BlackBerry as their Global Creative Director, which ended in January 2014 after just 12 months.

It’s no longer worth remarking on journalists leaving esteemed publications to become bloggers. Or the massive prices paid for startups which may not have produced significant profits.

Whatever the questions being asked, it seems like the answer is simple – technology.

Bridge Cables Photo by Vita Vilcina http://www.vivivi.co.uk/ (CC Licence)

Photo by Vita Vilcina http://www.vivivi.co.uk/ (CC Licence)

The population of the UK is mostly connected via PCs, tablets and smartphones, and the majority of people are connected via social networks, apps and casual games. It’s increasingly rare to find anyone not on Facebook or Clash of Clans – or to find a child who isn’t familiar with Minecraft or Youtube.

The mainstream media now carries news about the latest technology and can see big enough audiences to schedule full programmes on topics like 3D printing and artificial intelligence.

  • In some ways that’s amazingly great – I’ve loved technology as long as I can remember.
  • But in some ways it’s worrying – when all you have is technology, every problem looks like an application.

For all the transformational power of the internet, we’re still governed by politicians who we can’t trust, and a small group of mega-corporations who can’t effectively be controlled.

We’ve yet to see print publications finally become marginalised. Most big media companies have now had time to adapt and evolve rather than become extinct. And the biggest contributors to open source projects like Linux now come from developers employed by large corporations.

Meanwhile we still have war, famine and greater financial inequality than ever. Statistically we’re safer in the developed Western world than ever in human history, but we’re bombarded with reports of potential threats to us in greater volumes than could have been imagined.

The myth that ‘anyone can be a success’ has spread from America to envelope the whole internet, despite the fact that only a percentage of businesses will ever be successful until enough virtual currencies and bots are developed to create infinite consumption.

Meanwhile we seem to have many of the same problems which have faced society for hundreds of years, and as Gamergate has shown so well, we’ve made little progress. Because rather than asking questions about politics, society and business which mean challenging assumptions and investing huge amounts of time and resource into making a significant change, it’s easier to announce a new software platform or app. And most of us (me included) are too busy trying to scrape a living in between liking updates and checking into games to do more than sign the occasional e-petition.

 

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Some inspiration for the mid-30s and late bloomers

I’ve been clearing out old bookmarks from my browser as part of an attempt to improve my IT habits (More on that tomorrow), and stumbled across an article I saved back in 2012.

It’s by Dave McClure, who founded the 500 Startups seed accelerator and investment fund and has become a pretty well known and respected VC.

Reading it again, it’s not surprising I saved it. I experienced a similar trajectory, where I seemed to be fairly smart and destined to do well until a lack of motivation and hard work combined with distractions meant that I ended up with qualifications below what I could have achieved.

I was lucky to achieve a dream job with Bauer Media (then Emap) working on the world’s biggest motorcycle website, and followed that up with roles introducing social media across the business, and a move to follow another passion of mine, music, at Absolute Radio.

Forest Pic by Dustin Scarpitti, used under Creative Commons license.

Forest Pic by Dustin Scarpitti, used under Creative Commons license.

But as I get closer to 40, I can identify with the idea that you can still feel like an unfocused underachiever, especially when the media is full of the teen and 20-something bright young things creating multi-million startups, apps and Youtube channels.

It’s a strange feeling considering I’ve managed to build a business by bootstrapping it from nothing to survive 4 years, including some tough economic times, and work with some great, and sometimes massive companies. And at the same time, the websites I’ve started reach hundreds of thousands of people each year.

I suspect I’m not the only person who’ll identify with ‘late bloomer, not a lose.(I hope)‘.

It’s something to remember, along with the belief that you don’t have to end every day with a massive success – just do a bit better every day and suck a little less and things will happen. At the same time, I also saved this post by James Altucher on simple things to do every day to be luckier. Exercise, Prioritise, Mental exercise, Meditation. Time to make sure I improve on each one every day…

 

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Absolutely essential viewing: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

I finally got around to watching the documentary, “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz’. It’s simply essential for anyone who cares about technology, the internet, access to information and the society of the future to watch. And it’s available to view for free on Youtube and other sites (embed below).

All the more tragic and inspiring to think of what he might have continued to achieve. And how the things he fought for are still so important to fight for now and in the future.

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Why I love cars and motorcycles…

Just replied to a question on Facebook, and wanted to share the reasons I gave for loving cars and motorcycles here. Partly because I increasingly want to make sure I’m storing more content on my own properties rather than a social network owned, controlled and generating revenue for someone else. And partly as a spur to remind me to expand on it sometime in the future.

BellinghamHotRodShopMustang

Q: People who are interested in cars. Why?

  • Because they embody the potential freedom of being able to travel anywhere as long as you have some money for petrol, rather than being stuck where you are.
  • Because as a teenager they offer a place which can be entirely your own, with your own space, music, and a back seat to entertain members of the opposite sex.
  • Because they also have the potential to offer speed and excitement when most of our lives can be humdrum.
  • Because there is a sense of wonder in how everything fits together to harness the power of small explosions to drive wheels and provide motion.
  • Because the best cars have a design which embodies beauty or emotion, whether it’s the curves of an E-Type or the brute power of a muscle car.
  • Because motorsports, although a team effort in the pits, are a solo effort when the racers are on the track.
  • Because being on a track and getting everything right can lead to experiencing ‘flow’, as with any skill which is repeated to the point an expert has an almost ‘out of body’ experience.

And because of sociological influences which mean that I love cars and motorcycles in the same way as other people might love golf, knitting or whatever their passion might be.

The more I grow up, the less I care about people having an identical passion, and the more I’m interested in their passion itself for whatever they might love…

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Last call for Movember donations…

It’s been almost a month, and my Movember efforts have been coming along nicely. But donations have been slightly less forthcoming than the increasing amount of grey hair sprouting over my top lip.

So if you haven’t donated to anyone yet, why not support someone who is generally extremely reluctant to be photographed at all, let alone in regular voluntary selfies.

My Movember page is here.

MovemberDay26

Movember, Day 26.

By the way, if you happen to like the jacket, it’s a new Stein Heritage jacket, available at BargainBikerBrands.com (Client disclosure).

Only 4 days left of Movember to go, and then I’ll have to decide whether to revert to being clean shaven, or grow some facial hair more permanently for winter warmth. It’s tempting, but then again, my son keeps telling me I look like a grandad – something which I didn’t expect to happen for another 10-15 years…

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Connecting with family at Chatham Historic Dockyard

I made my first visit to Chatham Historic Dockyard on Sunday. Having grown up in the area, the dockyard originally closed when I was a child, and it’s taken my son reaching the same age to provide the catalyst for not only me to visit, but also to get my dad along, as a former employee there.

DestinationChathamDockyard

Partly it was fascinating to not only see the displays, the two ships in dry dock, and particularly to go on board HM Submarine Ocelot, but also to talk to my dad about what it was like when he was working there – including the work he actually did on HMS Cavalier, which is on display.

HMS Cavalier - Chatham Historic Dockyard

It was great to come away with a new appreciation for my dad’s work, as well as experiencing how small and cramped it really is on a submarine – pictures and videos really don’t do it justice.

HM Submarine Ocelot at Chatham Historic Dockyard

It made me realise how lucky I am, and how lucky my son is, to be able to experience these things with his grandparents. I wish, for example, I’d made more effort to spend time with my own grandparents as I got older, and visit places which were relevant to them (For instance Imperial War Museum Duxford has displays relevant to my grandparents on both sides of the family).

Having also started scanning in some old photos I’ve found, it’s also made me appreciate how much easier it is to collect, compile, organise and share digital media – the photos from that day aren’t in a box under a bed, but automatically uploaded to Google+, manually uploaded to Flickr, downloaded to my removable hard drive as a backup and on my PC.

And my thoughts are going here publicly, rather than in a diary or staying in my head.

Cannon and flag - Chatham Historic Dockyard

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Unexpected consquences of exceeding Dunbar’s number?

Life for most people in the modern world is undoubtedly safer than it was 100 years ago. And yet the demand of 24-hour global news channels means that our perception is that it’s become more dangerous as we’re fed a constant diet of crime and reasons to worry.

By the same token, 100 years ago we’d generally have known a smaller circle of people, but the internet and social media has allowed us to exceed Dunbar’s number of 150 contacts we can maintain a social relationship with to include far more at a lower level of ‘ambient intimacy’. Whether or not you can argue we can have close social ties with a larger group, we’re certainly more aware of what happens to them than ever before.

A crowd gathered around a man speaking from the back of a horse-drawn wagon

And I wonder what effect that may have on our outlook. Statistically, we’re more likely to encounter the loss of someone if our number of relationships increase, and we’re more likely to see connections that are the victims of crime etc. By the same token, we’re as potentially likely to also encounter more positive experiences, and certainly various studies and research show that positivity generally tends to be shared more on social networks than negativity.

I’ve had a look back through various articles I’ve saved, and there are certainly studies which show usage of social media can trigger depression, particularly if you’re prone to comparing your reality with the edited highlights which your contacts are constantly sharing.

I’m not suggesting everyone is actively lying about their lives, but that we’re all more likely to share a fabulous meal than the fact we’re scraping together something between two slices of stale bread. And therefore most updates you see will either be the better side of life, or the other extreme of frustration and tragedy.

In some ways that may actually justify the mundane updates for which Twitter has always been criticised. Maybe it’s a positive thing for us psychologically to know that other people in the world also forgot to go shopping and are scrabbling through their cupboards, or are stuck in traffic or waiting for a bus, etc.

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Brilliant inspirational speech by Tim Minchin…

Really good advice here…