Step aside

A little farm stay in Tuscany where I spent a few days with my wife and children last week.

A little farm stay in Tuscany where I spent a few days with my wife and children last week.

As you may know, I've been traveling with my wife and children over the last few weeks.

I've pretty much switched off my work email, and sans telephone access I've spent some valuable and much needed time with the most important people in my life.

I've even managed to avoid Twitter!

Together we've eaten off the land, we've explored ancient cities and we've done more exercise each day than we do in our normal lives. We've laughed, we've argued and we've laughed about that too.

I'm eternally grateful to be able to do this and believe me, the fact that I'm away from work, and I am able to step away from my normal life for four weeks isn't something I take for granted.

It's something my wife and I have planned and worked towards for quite some time.


To step aside.

To breath in deeply, and exhale.

I imagine, like me, you are at the mercy of a constant battle to balance work and life. A daily murmuring inside your head that calls out to you to work less and simply 'be' more.

My days speed by at a frenetic pace — always on, always thinking and rarely able to stop, pause and take stock.

Rarely able to savour a moment. Stare out the window for a little and let whatever it is I'm doing sit for a while.

Now, don't get me wrong, travelling with a 2 year old, an 8 year old and a 10 year old isn't most people's idea of holiday bliss. We're not chilling by the pool, sipping Margarita's every day that's for sure.

Far from it.

But the last few weeks have enabled us to savour a few precious moments together and that alone has made the whole thing worth it.

I receive so many questions from readers of this journal, frustrated and stressed about their careers, about digital product development, about learning new skills, leveling up, about how, how much, how often, why, when, what and everything in between.

The questions are plentiful and I think most can easily be solved by simply stepping aside from our daily lives to see them in a different light.

Whenever I travel, I like to read something that is related to the place I'm traveling to. Amongst the Lonely Planet guides we've packed, I also have with me a couple of books that I decided to read and re-read in between chasing my two year old and hanging out with my two older children.

One of these books was Marcus Aurelius' 'Meditations' — a book by one of Rome's Emperors, written in journal form — coming together as a series of interrelated, and sometimes disjointed thoughts on his life as he lead war efforts, communities and cities. 

Inspired by this book I started writing some of my own musings into my own paper journal. A list of random thoughts, ideas and insights that I picked up from it and my travels.

And for the moment, I'd like to share this list of musings with you. 

A list of things I'd suggest doing as often as possible. Or at the very least keeping front of mind.

A list that I hope will help me find the right answers to my own questions and one that I hope has the same outcome for you.

A list that will allow us both to continually step aside for a moment within our days. Allowing us to step out onto the edge and look back at our life, career, peers and selves in a new light.

Another favourite author, Kurt Vonnegut once said:

"I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center."

With this quote in mind, here is a list of things that I've scrawled into my own paper journal as we've travelled over the last few weeks.

  1. Don't conform to the status quo. The status quo is what everyone else is doing. Do something for yourself.
  2. Stop, breath and listen to what you think is the answer.
  3. Explore the world. You will learn more about yourself and have more clarity on your goals from purposeful travel than you will from any other form of education.
  4. Engage in conversation with a stranger. Tell them your story. Listen to yourself tell them your story.
  5. Engage in conversation with a stranger. Be curious about their life and ask them a myriad of questions to learn about them as a human being.
  6. Be the best version of yourself.
  7. Exercise every day. It will help you think clearly, it will help you see clearly and it will make you and your work better.
  8. Don't watch your competitors. Focus on what you're doing, where you're going and why. If you're going to compete, compete against yourself.
  9. Keep it simple. Always.
  10. Be humble. Always.
  11. Be kind. Always.
  12. Burn some bridges. Some people are just fucked up.
  13. Tell it like it is. If you spot someone bullshitting, call it.
  14. Some people are so insecure they'll never admit their wrong and will sap you of all you have.
  15. Anger, bitterness, contempt are wasted emotions. If you feel these towards someone or something, you may as well love them as it requires just the same amount of energy.
  16. There are no guarantees.
  17. Don't chase fame and fortune.
  18. Learn to be alone and love it.
  19. Don't be a slave to 'good design' — good design is design that works. That's it. 
  20. Wake up each morning and decide to do good, meaningful work.
  21. Don't give a fuck what other people think of you. You have no control over such things.
  22. Use time well.
  23. Be a contributor, not a passenger.
  24. Be patient.
  25. There are no secret shortcuts to winning. Do the work.
  26. Do the work.
  27. Connect to other people in a meaningful way.
  28. Don't bullshit people and most of all, don't bullshit yourself.
  29. Be present. If you have children, be present when they're talking to you. This is so damn hard but so fucking important.
  30. Some people are well meaning but dumb as dog shit — let them run their own race.
  31. Run your own race.
  32. Step aside — out onto the edge and look back at the centre.
  33. Eat good, clean food.
  34. Exercise. Learn to lift heavy things. Run. Push yourself.
  35. Start something.
  36. Teach and share what you know.
  37. Never stop learning.
  38. Laugh. Every day. Laugh with someone you love.
  39. Don't live life or build a career by following silly lists like this one - go out and do your own thing. ;)
  40. Embrace change. It will come, it's inevitable.