Exercise for the soul

Walking on a sunny summer’s evening is much more the just exercise

Walking the road to nowhere,

on a sunny summers evening,

legs and mind in perfect harmony,

exercise for mind, body and soul.

10 lessons from living in a pandemic

Lots of lessons that we can learn from our current situation, here are 10 of mine

Every day is a school day.

I don’t know about you but during this pandemic situation. I have been learning more than usual.

After thinking about it. I decided to make a list of everything I have learned so far. Here are my top 10.

1. The world is a noisy place. We have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason.

This is number 1 for me. Because I learned that when I don’t rush. I listen and learn a lot more.

Listening more than we talk is a wonderful skill to pick up. We can become more understanding. More compassionate and take life at a slower pace.

When your not the one doing the talking. Your thinking slows down. The amount of information you take in increases also.

The result is clearer thinking and better decision making.

If you have ever heard someone say that the smartest person in the room is the quietest. Then take notice. It turns out they may be onto something.

Of course, these days its more likely to be the quietest person on the zoom call.

2. Working from home most of the time has some big advantages.

Yeah, I’m one of those in the working from home fan club.

I wasn’t at first and I still have bad days with it. But I would still say that, for the most part, its the future.

A day without a commute is better for a start. No time wasted traveling.

That’s more time with the family. Pursuing a hobby, or anything else you want to do.

Not stuck in traffic somewhere. Plus it’s way cheaper.

No eating out 5 days a week. For me, that’s been a revelation in 2 ways.

First is saving a fortune, between lunch, snacks, and coffee. It’s money saved that I never actually ever thought about before.

Second and more important. I’m living a far healthier lifestyle. Eating at home I found it much easier to be healthy and as a result. I’m healthier, fitter, and much lighter than I was at the start of the year.

The last one here is productivity. I have given myself a routine and set hours. I have very few distractions and so because of that. I find myself much more productive. Than I would be in a typical office environment.

The one thing that is missing is social interaction throughout the day. Which takes us into lesson 3.

3. We need much more social interaction than I ever thought.

I’m not an introvert by any means. But I can be introspective and enjoy my own company. To the point that 50% of the people I meet think I’m ok. The rest most likely think I’m a tool.

What I have learned during this time. Is that social interaction shouldn’t be only on my terms.

Neither should it be taken for granted. Humans are social animals by nature.

One of the hardest things to take over the last few months. Has been that limited interaction with people. Just the simple contact with people during the day.

It’s more important for our mental health and general wellbeing than I thought.

Then there is the problem of missing social events and catch-ups with friends. Which brings me onto number 4.

4. Stay connected with friends and family.

The internet is a great tool to connect with the world. Use it to the best of your ability.

Through the last few months, it has been the ability to get on zoom, etc. and connect. That has gotten many of us through.

It’s also been a great excuse to track down people we lost touch with and get reconnected.

The power of that social connection with friends and loved ones is so powerful for humanity. This situation has proved that.

Staying connected can get us through anything.

5. Be kind and generous where you can.

Paying it forward. A random act of kindness. Whatever you want to call it.

Turns out giving feels pretty good and has some real benefits. Whether its money, old stuff you don’t use. Time or knowledge.

Being kind and sharing what you have is another great way to connect with our fellow humans.

Something I didn’t do enough of before. I will be doing it a lot more going forward.

There is always someone or something that needs a little leg up. One day the tables could turn. It might be me in the same situation. I would like to hope someone would help me in the same way.

6. People you know will be losing jobs. You have some tools to help them.

This one ties into number 5, but it’s more specific I guess.

It’s sad but true. Many friends and colleagues are losing their job’s at the moment. Other than giving them only moral support and a listening ear. There are some other things we can do for them:

  • Take the time to endorse them on LinkedIn.
  • Take the time to recommend them on LinkedIn.
  • Send them links to job openings that they fit. We can even reach out and recommend them for those jobs.
  • Take the time to review a resume or help them practice for an interview.

These are things we all have the power to do. They don’t cost us anything but a small amount of time.

The result for the person looking for that next job to keep food on the table?

For them, it could be huge.

I guess its treating people how you would like to be treated yourself.

7. How much needless stuff did I buy?

This one is personal I guess. But true, I used to buy an endless amount of stuff. Never needed and seldom used.

Like how many pairs of sneakers does one person need?

By not having the opportunity to shop (Online is not a good option where I am). I realized how wasteful some of my habits were.

It changed fundamentally my relationship with money for the better. It turns out spending less and saving more. Can bring just as much joy as saving less, spending more, and having a house full of stuff I never use.

Who would have thought???

8. Travel is a luxury, but staying closer to home can be fun also.

I’m a big traveler. Whether for business or pleasure. I’m used to traveling each week of the year.

Needless to say. This year life has slowed down a lot.

The benefit of that is having to stay at home.

I am spending more time in the country. I’m learning to appreciate the beauty of nature on my doorstep.

I’ve not done that before. To me, staycations sounded awful.

Going forward we will be making the most of where we stay. Those mega vacations?

They will be kept for special occasions and treats.

There is so much to see and do. Right on our own doorsteps.

All we have to do is jump in and explore.

9. We can do more for the environment.

When life is moving a million miles an hour. It’s hard to take stock and notice the little things around us.

Now that life has taken on a slower pace. It’s easier to sit up and take notice of the smaller things.

For me, one of those things is plastic waste.

Everything from food packing to water bottles and lids on coffee cups.

It harms the environment. I’m now more conscious of that.

Why?

Well, I have a lot more time on my hands. That means I notice a lot of things I never used to. Like the amount of plastic packaging we trash.

I now avoid plastic packaging where ever I can. I don’t buy water after learning my tap water is the same stuff I buy in the store.

That’s a huge amount of plastic I’m no longer sending to landfill.

In our house, we have also embraced the reduce, reuse, and recycle mantra.

Not something we did before.

Two examples of that would be:

  • Using every part of a food, we know have a garden full of fruit and veg that we grew ourselves. (Which feeds into lesson 10). Using the seeds which we no longer throw away. What we can’t eat like apple cores, for example, turns into compost.
  • Recycling stuff we would have trashed. Our tomatoes needed posts and retainers to hold them up. At the garden center that would have meant buying plastic posts and plastic ty-wraps.

At home that meant driftwood from the river chopped down into posts.

The retainers?

Well, not every tomato tree can say its held up by Calvin Klein and Victoria Secret’s finest underwear.

The new rule is nothing gets trashed if it can be reused. Including old clothes.

Getting inventive with that new rule can be a lot of fun. Plus it can be a good learning experience.

Which brings us to…

10. Learn new skills.

A huge thing that has kept us going is learning. From painting to gardening. Through building and astrology.

Our house has been in learning mode. If we get bored. It’s a signal to learn something new.

Sometimes that’s been taking pleasure in reading. Other times its been getting outside and doing something more physical.

What it has done is give us ways to keep the mind busy. It’s also been a lot of fun along the way.

At the end of the day…

Life as we knew it has changed. The new normal will be different. That in itself is a good thing.

Change can be scary but it can also be good for us.

All too soon that new normal will kick in. Life will go back to being run at a million miles an hour.

Take the time to reflect now, before it’s too late.

I bet you will start to look at life from a different perspective.

These then are my top 10 lessons I have learned.

What about you?

Lost in the love of music

A simple story of music and the power it has

Music, it’s one of the loves of my life.

I love to write, painting is also a passion. Nothing though comes close to music.

I can’t play an instrument or read music. My entire enjoyment of music comes from listening.

Over time my tastes have evolved and changed. I listen to and get lost in music which I wouldn’t have before.

As I get older classical, opera, country. They all fight for space and attention with rock, blues, jazz, and more.

It started for me when I was nine years old. I heard the song “supersonic” by the rock band Oasis. Suddenly the world went from back and white to full technicolor.

Nothing has been the same since. I spend my days lost in the music. Constantly exploring new and exciting sounds.

I also use music as a way to make sense of the world. If I want to replay a part of life in my mind, often I’ll use music as a tool to access those memories.

I’m fascinated by the science of it all. How those noises make sense of emotions, strengthen memories, or affect mood.

As I get older I feel a stronger connection to my life through music. Each of us has a soundtrack that accompanies our lives and all that goes with them.

I’m interested if you take the time to read this, what doe’s music do for you?

Please leave a comment, I’m really interested in your opinion on this subject!

The simple life — Gardening our secret pleasure

Anyone remember the simple life?

The sit-com where a couple ditch the corporate life and become small scale farmers?

While they went all in, there is no reason that we can’t dip our toe and enjoy the same benefits.

Sometimes the simple pleasures in life are the best.

Spending time outside, and growing things is hugely enjoyable.

Being able to eat what you grow is also great. The result of that hard work always tastes sweeter.

Especially today when we can’t pursue a lot of our other hobbies. Its been a huge amount of fun growing fruits and vegetables.

We also rescued the abandoned grapevines and gave them a new lease of life. If we get some continued good weather, a bit more rain and some luck we should have grapes to make some wine.

Sitting at home, not being able to exercise as much as we would like, it can be hard.

Whether you have limited room in an apartment or balcony. Or your fortunate to have a garden.

Its great fun, a simple activity that’s harder work than you might think.

A de-stressor, exercise, and food production all in one.

If you have been looking for some inspiration to try something new. I can really recommend some gardening.

Its been a secret pleasure of ours since the spring. Now that we are enjoying the fruits of the labor, I think its time to share it.

The future’s bright, the future’s a robotic cleaner

We just bought a robot vacuum, it solves so many issues…

House chores some people hate them, some people love them. Either way, I can think of much better things to do with life than cleaning the house.

That may be a terrible statement but its true. I was a spoiled child who got to skip household chores. That means today I rebel against the idea of me cleaning.

My partner is the opposite and had house chores during her childhood.

Cleaning duties in our house are sometimes like war.

Until yesterday I had two main tasks in the house.

  1. Washing dishes
  2. Vacuuming/Washing floors

I know it isn’t much and I can’t complain.

Still, there has to be a better way. It’s not like cleaning adds value to our time after all.

There are only 2 of us, so when you take the energy consumption of the dishwasher into our lives. It’s not a worthwhile trade-off.

Besides washing dishes from 2 of us, takes 5 minutes.

It’s the vacuuming and washing floors that need to go.

Not just because I hate them. I’m human and so far from consistent.

The solution may have arrived…

Again there are only two of us. Neither of us grew up particularly wealthy so no cleaner. We don’t feel that’s the correct choice for us.

Instead, we welcomed a new robot vacuum and mop into the house.

Already it’s proved its value. No more lost time, or time doing something we are not interested in, and no more inconsistency.

Once our cute little robot has been around the room once, it built a map. After that tell it which room its in and walk away.

After it has mopped or vacuumed it sends a notification.

It’s a fantastic little thing and a huge time saver.

Why???

Yes I know it sounds like a waste of money, but its build to the same standard of a high-end vacuum. It costs a similar amount of money, and I don’t need to drag it around.

Life is busy, things that bring us no joy get in the way.

We work, we have hobbies. Anything that gets in the way gets cut.

This is an extension of that outlook on life.

The future is here, it’s robotic, what an interesting time to be alive!

Music, the soundtrack to the journey of life

How music frames life and memories as we move through life

Music, its a funny old thing.

So emotive, ever changing. Its also how most of us express ourselves.

How we dress. What culture we follow. Our outlook on life. They are all traced back to music.

Through the course of our lives, the soundtrack changes with us.

Music can affect our mood and our memories.

In many ways its magic and that soundtrack can do many important things for us.

It trigger’s our memories

Music forms a bond to our memories in the brain.

A certain song for example can take us straight to a certain place in time.

Its a time stamp for the up’s, down’s and milestones of life.

When music triggers a memory, it can also trigger the emotions, sights and smells that go with it.

When we replay those memories in our minds, they are much stronger when linked to the music we are hearing.

This is one of the reasons that music can be effective in helping people with Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

It helps people connect to their memories and improves mood amongst other things.

It can shape our outlook on life

Life is unpredictable. Its a journey and an adventure.

Over a lifetime there are more up’s, down’s and bumps in the road than we can count.

When these changes happen in our lives. Music can be a great comfort.

The lyrics empathize with our situation, the music surrounds us and comforts us. It’s familiarity helps us to make sense of the big events in life.

Almost nothing else has the same effect on our mood and emotional state.

Our tastes expand and so does our outlook on life

As time marches on, the soundtrack to our lives evolves. The music we listen to changes.

We explore new genres, new artists, new formats.

When we do that, we also tend to explore the culture that goes with that new music.

As the soundtrack evolves so do our interests and our outlook on life.

Of course reading does the same thing, but music is the more accessible medium of the two.

Final thoughts

Music, its more than something we only listen to.

It adds color and context to our lives and gives us stronger bonds to our memories.

As we go through life, we have this great resource to help us navigate the journey.

When we get to the points where want to take a look behind us. That process can be greatly improved by using the soundtrack of our life to view those memories.

Taste breakers — Music that engages your brain

A change can be as good as a rest

’m a massive music fan. To the point that music is essential to my day.

The problem with that is that music can also be very distracting for me. While I’m happy to try and listen to anything once. I do tend to rely on the same old stuff while I’m working.

I get distracted or end up focusing on the music instead of my work. Neither is a good outcome.

I’m not alone here, its an issue for many of us. Over the past few weeks, I have tried three strategies to see what might work well for me.

No music

Yeah, this is as boring as it sounds.

Going through the day with the sound of silence in the background is not my idea of fun at all. I tried this for 3 days and gave up.

No music was if anything more distracting. It was very hard to focus on my work. I found myself looking for other things to do.

The conclusion from this very short experiment?

Working from home, music gives me the noise and external stimulation my brain is used to at work. I’m not designed to work in silence.

I soon moved onto experiment number 2

Binaural beats

This is essentially music designed to help you focus. Played through headphones with different tones, frequencies, and beats in each ear. It’s designed to stimulate the brain.

While it’s very similar to electronic dance, it did nothing at all for me.

Well, that’s not quite true it did give me a headache. Again tried using Binaural beats for 3 days.

While they did increase my focus and reduce distraction. I couldn’t get over the headache issue.

So an improvement and I would recommend trying them out. They just weren’t the solution for me.

I then moved onto experiment number 3

Taste breakers — Something different

Anyone who has ever used Spotify (Other streaming providers are available), will have seen this feature.

Its a playlist of music you would never normally listen to.

This is what has worked for me.

I don’t know the music so its in the background giving me the noise and stimulation I need. But none of the familiarity which leads to distraction.

Ok, more than once I have heard something that I had to investigate and learn more about.

On balance though this is working for me. Listening to jazz or opera or electric swing in the background is doing the trick.

I’m 6 days into this experiment and so far it’s working.

Conclusions

The music is not the point here. How much life changes when we work at home is what has surprised me.

Too often we seek perfection in an imperfect world. I’m used to lots of noise and external stimulation in the background for my brain. Working from my home office AKA the basement. I miss out on that.

While I can replace that noise with something else. There is a chance that what its replaced with becomes a bigger distraction than the silence.

I’m not alone in having this issue. There are many solutions out there. The three I tried were free, easy to implement and ultimately I found a great solution to a big problem.

The hidden danger in society re-writing history

We deserve a re-write, but we need to be careful to preserve the lessons of the past.

At the moment the world is at a cross roads.

The events of the past few years have led into the chaos that is 2020. In the aftermath of the horrible events in the U.S in May, society seems to be at a tipping point.

In the past it’s been governments who have re-written history. Whether we liked it or not as a society that’s what happened.

In 2020 and with the BLM movement building momentum across the globe. It seems like society itself is going to re-write history.

Its not the first time that’s happened of course. France and Russia became republics in the 18th and 20th centuries. Both are good examples of the power society has.

At this point re-writing some of our history and removing monuments etc., may feel like the right to do. If that’s what we as society want to do their is nothing wrong with that.

We do need to bear some things in mind.

We are at a generational crossroads that we haven’t seen since the 60’s. The values that young adults have today are not the same as those who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s.

What does remain the same is the aim to build a better world and change society for the better.

Not everyone is going to agree on the best way to deal with that. Remember as humans we are very uncomfortable with change.

This is an opportunity to come together as an equal society. The danger is that divisions will only push us all further apart.

The further we are from history the stronger the lessons are

As the world turns and the years pass we get further from the questionable events in history. Things such as slavery, colonialism and the holocaust for example. That objectivity lets us learn the lessons with different optics. Those lessons should also become stronger over time as an example to us all of how not to live.

We need to make sure that those lessons are being learned. Re-evaluated and passed onto the next generation. Otherwise things will not improve.

As a society we are far from perfect, we have so far to go in our journey. Learning the lessons and making sure we do not forget is key.

We need to learn to live together

As society we need to learn to live together. We are all humans at the end of the day. In 2020 it should not matter the color of our skin, our race or our religion.

We are all the same.

The lessons of the past are not being learned. Until they are we will continue to see turbulence and inequality in the world.

As much as we are trying to move forward, we still have racial segregation in living memory. That’s hard to move beyond in a generation.

Until we accept each other as equals, and put all the privilege’s, racism and xenophobia aside. Nothing else that we do will solve the issues that we have in society.

We can re-write as much of history as we like, that’s our united right as citizens of the world.

The real danger is that we complete the re-write but don’t take the lessons forward.

In the end that’s only going to cause history to repeat itself. The world is at a real cross roads right now. The only way forward is equality and respect across the board.

We have a long road and a hard journey in front of us, but like anything we humans put our minds to. Its possible we just have to come together and believe.

The Stigma of Starting a Business

Why is there so much negativity around self employment?

Why the negativity???

It seems that those starting out with a full time business or a side hustle meet lots of negativity.

It could be jealousy, or the fact that its a dream for other’s that they can’t commit to?

It could even be that others around us don’t see the value in going out on a limb.

Not when we there is a monthly pay check sitting waiting for us in the comfort of steady employment?

The feedback for anyone thinking of making a start on their own business is one of negativity?

Its a big step, one not everyone understands

This is the real issue around the stigma or lack of support that people feel.

Starting a business for ourselves is a huge step.

Its not a path that we are conditioned by modern society to follow.

Like anything else in life, when people don’t understand they are suspicious of and negative.

Most who do go on to start a business understand this.

What doe’s interest me though is how many people want to make a start on their own but this puts them off?

What can we do to improve the situation?

The good news is that there are things we can do to help those making the move.

That’s important in 2020 as traditional employment options become harder to come by.

  • Throw a business shower — help them get off the ground with the basics they need to start working from home
  • Promote businesses on social media, help get the word out there
  • If you like the product or service offered then use it

3 simple things that can move the needle on societies view of the self employed.

Success stories encourage others to follow the lead.

Job markets where they are, many more are going to have to take the plunge into working for themselves.

In the end

Times are changing, whether its full time or part time most of us are taking that brave plunge into the unknown.

What’s needed to make that work is for us to come together and be positive about the experiance.

The viewpoint society has today has to change.

If we are going to give people the confidence to make that lifestyle work for them…

Lessons from the Silver Screen

Great life lesson’s from a movie called “Click”

Lessons from an Adam Sandler movie???

I know, I know…

In fairness it was a Sunday night and there was nothing else on Netflix we wanted to watch.

Christopher Walken is in the movie we thought we would give it a go.

Whats the worst that could happen right?

In the end although its not either actors crowning glory, it did provide us with some thoughts to take away and reflect on and some life lessons.

Not too often you get them in a 1hr 20 family comedy

Can you control life???

In the movie the basic premise is that with a magic remote control for your life, that this is possiblle to a certain extent.

So while there are no do-overs, you can fast forward on auto pilot through the bits of life you don’t like.

We see the main character hit the fast forward button through arguments, meetings, illness, work days.

The lesson: Live in the present, hit the fast forward button and all too soon life is over. Huge chunks of time can go by without you noticing.

Skip the small stuff and miss the big changes

As our character moves forward through life missing all the small “unimportant” stuff as he goes, more of his life is spent in fast forward.

By not living in the present he starts to miss the big changes and milestones in life.

Years pass by in a blur, loved ones die and family grows up and changes.

The lesson: Make time for the small stuff, and learn to enjoy it, it all adds up and adds color and context to the big changes in life as we experiance them.

Where’s the rewind button???

While we can spend too much time in fast forward mode, unfortunately for us in real life just like our lead character found in the movie their is no rewind button.

The lesson: We don’t get the chance for a do-over in life, its what we make of it the first and only time around.

What about a replay button then???

Luckily for us, we don’t need to be in a movie to have the advantage of a replay button.

That’s provided for us by the remote control that we have the ability to click in our brain.

The lesson: While we can’t go back and relive events we can replay them in our mind and learn from them.

Learning from our mistakes is surely one of the most powerful lessons we learn as children.

The power of that lesson should not be reduced as we grow older.

Takeaways

Life isn’t always simple, and of course there are times when we just wish we could hit the fast forward button.

However the joy of life is its many up’s, downs and challenges.

The things we enjoy, the things we learn to love, along with those parts of life we would rather not deal with, they all shape us amd make life what it is.

When things dont go so well, we don’t have a fast forward or rewind button.

What we have instead is a set of lessons we can learn and pass onto the next generation.

Watching them grow and being present for the small things that up to the big steps and changes in life is what counts.

The joy of life and of living is in the small stuff…