Steven Pressfield, The Resistance – and I am not yet old

Please check out this podcast for context:

We all want to achieve great things. Fulfilling things which are beautiful, helpful, artistic and good. Paradoxically, I believe it is always tempting to find the easiest path to quitting. Quitting is a lot easier than shipping new work to the world. Quitting means we won’t fall under scrutiny.

This psychological trick we play on ourselves is what Steven Pressfield terms as “The Resistance” with a capital ‘R’. The Resistance is strong, sneaky and constantly trying to stop you doing your best work. The Resistance knows you inside and out, and so it can always find the best way to bring you to a standstill when you are wanting to start something new.

In my case, The Resistance regularly stops me from doing my best work by telling me I am old and it is too late. It tells me that I am already nearly 40 years old, and if I haven’t become “insert whatever achievement I am dreaming of” by now, then there is no point because it’s too dam late. Be happy with what you achieved so far and don’t dream of anything more, old man. Go eat a burger and watch TV.

The thing is, when The Resistance barks at you, you only have to scratch the surface a little bit to see how it’s all lies. Take the below definitions of old age as an example:

  • The World Health Organisation believes that most developed world countries characterise old age starting at 60 years and above.
  • However, this definition isn’t adaptable to a place like Africa, where the more traditional definition of an elder, or elderly person, starts between 50 to 65 years of age.
  • The World Economic Forum (WEF) has recently defined old age through a new measure called “prospective age” which looks at the average number of years people have left to live. So according to WEF, being old doesn’t start at age 65, rather when people have an average of 15 more years left to live.
  • Most of Europe have similar views of old age to the World Health Organisation, believing old age starts at 65 years of age.
  • In America, one researcher found that you are considered old at 70 to 71 years of age for men and 73 to 73 for women.
  • Just under a decade ago in Britain, people believed old age started at 59. However, research undertaken in 2018 found that British people believed you were considered old at 70.
  • A decade ago, Turkey considered 55 the beginning of old age, because the country’s average life expectancy at the time was 72. Now, however, with an unexpected boom in people over the age of 65, you are considered old when you reach the age of 70.
  • In developing countries, the age you are considered old is around when you can start receiving some form of pension.
  • In China, the retirement age is 60 for men and 50 for female workers, or for female civil servants, 55. China’s retirement age is considered one of the bigger gaps in retirement age.
  • Whereas, India has one of the lowest retirement ages in Asia, with 58 considered the age to retire.
  • In Libya, the retirement age was raised from 65 to 70 years.
  • In many cases, it seems that the common idea of what is old has either raised or lowered to a similar mark, around 65-70 years of age.
  • In Australia, the current retirement age is 67, however, that is expected to rise over the next few years. The Government is also pushing for older people to remain working for longer, so there has been a shift in what the Government believes is old.

So, by any real world measure I am not yet old. Take That, Resistance.

EVEN IF I WAS OLD – I could and should still work on something because humans are incredible and we can create beautiful art until we die. We can’t all be in NBA because of genetics, but we can share good work and art forever.

Fuck the Resistance. It is real and it stops us from trying. Which is tragic beyond belief.

I’m not a scientist

I am trying to write carefully about myself. Carefully enough to help with self-understanding. My last post was about my lack of pursuit of music. This is about my relationship to science.

The scientific method was taught to me at about 10 years of age. It was a chemistry class. Throughout school, science and the scientific method was only for rooms filled with bunsen burners, test tubes and chemical compounds. I found it interesting to an extent, but I never learned that I could use the scientific method and principles that surround it in my real life. Instead I learned what was required for passing the exam.

Nearly thirty years later I am learning that this is something of a tragedy. I am not a scientist, and I do not practice the scientific method for anything. Ever. However I can now see how powerful this method is. More than anything I see that the scientific method is about failure. Failure is not celebrated in the traditional schooling system.

The most scientific people I have met are also the busiest. They are the most consistent. They are the most fearless. They achieve the most only as a bi-product of their approach to life. They are the most satisfied and driven. They are not the most accurate. True science is messy and constantly searching for feedback on which to improve the venture. It is constantly failing and moving and trying again.

So I am not a scientist, but I am trying to become messier and less afraid of failure. That applies to this blog as much as anything.

Drum kit musings

I have a digital/electric drum kit sitting next to me. It’s in a sorry state with cables unplugged, the drum chair at the other end of the room and not a drum stick in sight. In an office filled with music memorabilia, colourful pictures and record collections, the drum kit is a sort of physical reminder of a part of my life that is dead, wasted, shrivelled, kaput.

I no longer play live music. I no longer play the drums. I used to fucking love playing in bands, and now i don’t. So the next question is – Why??!

The easy answer is: if I knew why, then I wouldn’t be in this predicament! But I am in this shrivelled, pathetic predicament and so i must explore the genesis. A couple of points… make my point….pointedly:

Most recently – Having four kids in 5 years leaves little time for hobbies or passion projects. Even the most juicy passion will shrivel like a dead carrot under this pressure for time and attention……..However, I stopped playing the drums well before I had children. The last band I regularly played in was about…..14 years ago!!!! Therefore my kids are off the hook…dammit. What else do I have?

Traveling. I moved around a lot in the last 14 years. From Kenya to Australia to Johannesburg – back to Australia and now Cape Town for the last 6 years. This is a huge one – the most successful bands i have played in have involved friendships more than anything else. Friends getting together with music as the common interest and focal point. It feels like i haven’t been anywhere long enough to form the appropriate friendships. This is another way of saying I am bloody lazy socially. I have little excuse. I need to start somewhere. I can do this with work, with fitness, and with my household relationships – so I must do the same with friendships and music.

As with anything important – success comes from developing streaks. Pitching up time after time to play some music is the best way to play some music.

Sounds ridiculous but it’s not.

In a small way I think I also need to get an acoustic drum kit again. This electronic Kit was a gift from my wife and if i am honest I never quite took to it. I need to make some more noise.

Happy Wednesday all.

What will you want when you’re old?

If you are a human, you are going to get old one day. That in itself is a reason to look around at how the elderly live. How are they treated? What would you want to have around you if you were that elderly person?

When I do this sort of observation, besides access to social interaction and family caring for me, I would like three things to be in good order when I am old: I want technology to assist my life, I want enough money to get through the months, and I want easy enough access to medicine and healthcare for my ageing body and mind.

These three things are not the answer, but I am sure they can help someone to enjoy their later years. There is enough of a need and supply of all three to start a service and make a change for the good.

Swimming toddlers

I just saw my second eldest child swim a width of the swimming pool for the first time. Being able to swim is so important for so many reasons.

That single width opens up possibility for exercise, survival, health, holiday, piece of mind, play and more.

There is no down side to being able to swim. Sometimes I take it for granted.

Second childishness

Older people are faced with a daunting prospect.

As Shakespeare put it:

“Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

At some stage, we humans have to accept that we need an intensive level of care in our old age. The return to a second childishness may happen gradually or suddenly. Importantly, we humans can prepare for its arrival beforehand. We know it is coming, unquestionably.

One important factor I can see is the shift in mindset required. To accept what has always been ignored – to ask for assistance after your peak, and after already learning how to live a successful life – this shift is monumental.

Start of a blog streak – Change agents

Seth Godin has (again) made something clear to me (see his blog post here). It is clear that as human beings it is worth focusing on change agents. Especially if you want to make a difference.

These change agents can come in many forms: A birth, a death, a graduation, a promotion…..even something as mundane as a shower – change agents are all around us. Change agents in the words of Seth Godin: “give us an understanding of our options and the need to respond, not to react”

Responding to something instead of reacting carries with it a sense of intentionality, of work, and of effort.

To be intentional about everything we do is the goal. Pulling us from that goal are a million different forces. The world turns and entropy bites us in the bum despite our intentions.

To my mind, small breakthroughs can come from recognising a change agent. In a corporate, industrial setting, the agent may be a step in a long-winded process where a box must be ticked, a report generated. A need must be met and this requires something to change. In the artist’s world, the change agent is the muse, inspiration, and practice that creates the work.

What is your change agent?

Ideas, exchanges and vibes.

One of the best things about my beautiful and lovely wife is her enthusiasm for new ideas and improvements. When she becomes enthusiastic about something you can’t help but be swept up in the excitement. I love when she tries to persuade me of an idea. I see these exchanges as the beginning of a process where as a couple we make something happen. The process seems to follow a pattern.

First – If my wife gets excited about an idea, strange things start to happen. She bursts into song and the birds and forest animals start to appear. The whole world is entranced by her melody and everything works in perfect harmony.

Ok, Maybe that was a Disney flick, but my point still stands. If she gets excited, There is definitely a new vibe in the room. I have started to recognise and register this vibe. This vibe leads to great things. Her eyes look deeper and darker. She becomes energised. At this stage in the process everything is Still a fantasy. There are no boundaries with fantasies. There is no perspective, just pure excitement and ideas.

Next in the process, We start talking about the exciting ideas. We start a long exchange. Once an exchange happens, I like to think we bring some perspective and common sense to the idea. It’s almost as if Fantasies can slowly become real, if you talk about them long and hard.

Next, we have some perspective and so we can make decisions. In the final moments of an exchange we divide responsibilities and make real world decisions about making things better, or about making better things.

Sometimes these ideas don’t work. But sometimes they do, and they invariably start with “that vibe”. I am constantly watching for that vibe now. The process has worked too many times now to ignore it!

Happy Wednesday chimps.

The value of writing

Why write a blog post? A book? An article? To quote one of my favourite bloggers: “Being able to write well is a result of being orderly in your thought processes. Economy of words allows the truth to be seen more clearly. Great speechifiers are rarely great doers.”

What I take from this is that clarifying your thoughts and opinions in writing is often a step towards being able to act on something. I can think of no better reason to write well and succinctly.

The world seems full of people who are willing to read and consume all day, and to write poorly on social media. Perhaps there is a need for people to take writing more seriously and to do so with the aim of acting out something specific in the real world.

My own writing has fallen off a proverbial cliff lately. We just had our fourth child. However, we are slowly emerging from the fog of newborns and I feel more than ever the need to write and then to act.

The birds are tweeting outside my window. It’s time to get up.

Happy Monday y’all!

Thoughts on the elderly

COVID has shed a light on my lack of appreciation for the elderly. I have been forced to register and think about the older people in my life who are far more susceptible to death from this awful pandemic.

This leads to a bit of a watershed moment in my mind. A curiosity which develops into a desire to help. I want to engage with the elderly more and I notice that the elderly are hard to engage with in the best of times. We do not enable them to take part in our societies, forums and technologies like we could. A few thoughts on this:

  • In my experience, Older people are sidelined into care homes and we don’t include them in day to day life very often. Perhaps they don’t want to be included but it is worth clarifying if this is the case.
  • There are entire university departments dedicated to bettering the plight of the elderly. This suggests things are not going so well for them at the moment.
  • The elderly’s relationship with Technology needs work. Tech has the potential to improve health and enable engagement. Often it isolates and frustrates the elderly people trying to use it.

I’ve always enjoyed talking to older people. Perhaps my new found curiosity will lead somewhere.