Switch off, log out

“Show me someone who isn’t a slave! One is a slave to lust, another to greed, another to power, and all are slaves to fear. I could name a former Consul who is a slave to a little old woman… No servitude is more abject than the self-imposed.”

– Seneca, Moral Letters, 47.17

I’ve had a complete cull of social media bar my instagram account. I have not deactivated Facebook I have completely deleted it. I am quite ashamed to report I had some withdrawal symptoms. Feelings that I was missing out on conversations or shared jokes and upcoming local events. When you change from the “norm” you become hyper aware of the thing you are trying to avoid. Aware of others talking to you whilst typing on their phones or checking it mid conversation to see if they have notifications, which when you are not partaking in doing the same becomes fucking annoying and rude. Feeling you are second to a like on Facebook or someone sharing a share. Sadly I have to use 3 apps for work. Otherwise I would not have a “smart” phone. I have stopped using google maps and get out the old A to Z. I check my thoughts and memories without double checking google. If I want to know of local events I check notice boards or the library when passing. Or as I did today I asked someone if they knew of a local panto and was given a local church newsletter which had exactly what we wanted on it. Something google had not been able to find.

I’ve actively messaged friends, where as before a simple like on a post of theirs would suffice. Instead I’ve checked up on them to see how they are. By cutting out and avoiding social media I’ve become more social and better in communicating. The very thing that is designed to keep us all more connected made me feel disconnected.

Smart phones do have they uses.

One of which is finding this Article from a few years ago.

“1. When you’re without a cellphone, time expands. It’s incredible how much time is wasted looking for the possibilities of engagement on our phones. By day two I felt that involuntary itch to check my texts subside. My thumbs begin to relax. I discovered that I had time to simply think and observe my thoughts and my surroundings – oh and my thoughts about my surroundings. Had I been missing what was going on around me while staring at my phone every 60 seconds? (Note: this is a rhetorical question.)

2. You have less email to contend with. Note : change this to notifications

It’s weird, but it’s true. When you stop checking your email constantly, you stop half-replying to stuff, and that means fewer emails being batted back to you, and fewer emails all around. This actually helps streamline communication, because you address a thing head on instead of bandying half-formed ideas about without resolution. How quaint: You actually think about what you are going to say and when you’re available, you respond!  How cutting edge: You start wishing everyone would lose their phones or at least vow not to answer until they have considered their response.

3. You’re not unreachable. There was a time when we found each other without phones. Even when you’re off your mobile tether, people who want to find you will find a way to get in touch with you. That anxiety we feel when we don’t have immediate access to people feels real, but it quickly abates when you realize that you do not vanish when your phone does.

4. You hyper manage the drudge out of your life.  Our lives are a hybrid of drudge and fulfillment; balance comes with apportioning the required with the good stuff.  Where does my phone fit into this? I used to think it helped me manage down the drudge but what it actually does is perpetuate my focus on the drudge, because I’m constantly checking and refining schedules and plans: I can make dinner reservations for next Saturday while I am waiting for my meeting to begin; I can see what yoga classes I could take when I’m in Williamsburg, NY, next week while I’m on hold with a client.

Seems like smart multitasking, but having all of that at my fingertips throughout the day actually detracts from what is important and fulfilling. Without my phone I had to quickly and efficiently decide how to manage all the planning, arrangements, decision-making about how to get from point A to Point B today and tomorrow once and for all, rather than all day long.

5. You’re not lost. I live and die by Google maps, even in my own city. We all do. So what happens when you can’t take a digital bird’s-eye view of your geolocation on the spot every minute? I had to do something I also hadn’t done in a while: Ask for directions. You know, rely on and interact with another person to get where I’m going, which I have to remind myself, I did every day pre-Google. Not to mention, that allowed me to listen to the radio and just drive.

6. You check your thoughts instead of your phone. Because I wasn’t scanning for emails and texts, I could actually scan my own thoughts and tune in to how I was doing, which, admittedly, I hadn’t done for a while. How did I sleep last night? What is the weather? Did I get sufficient exercise yesterday? Gee, I actually know this without looking at my phone. But instead of looking at that stuff (as well as learning what a former colleague thinks of a new restaurant she just ate in), I can focus on how am I feeling instead, and ask, What am I looking forward to today? What is holding me back and is it real or imagined?

7. Empathy is a boomerang. It comes back and rewards you in spades. Empathy is a key characteristic of resilience, and encouraging your employees to be empathetic will not only make them happier and more engaged, it will make your customers more satisfied.

After I lost my phone, I asked six Delta employees for help, and only two—two!— exhibited any sign of empathy or actually thought for a moment about how to solve my problem. The other two-thirds essentially said, Move along, Are you boarding or not?, or started rattling off some company-speak about their Lost and Found (which by the way, has a stated Method of Operation best described as  ‘Don’t call us we’ll call you’).  In contrast, almost any small hotel, salon, health club, you’ll find that 9 out of 10 employees know how to find a way to help you when you lose a phone, need to send a message, left something in your room. They can find a way to get you your phone inside of a day, because they’re there to serve you. Not so with the airlines.

But here’s the kicker: The two employees who showed empathy and tried to help me best they could actually seemed far happier than those who did not (the four who did not offer help were grumpy and stressed). This confirmed for me what I know about the empathy effect: You get back what you give, and it lifts the mood almost immediately.The value of empathy is that is not only helps your customers, it helps  you and your employees with engagement and success.

In the meantime, I have come to terms that I will never see that phone again. The good thing? They’re 100% replaceable. But the impact and tremendous value of human connection is not. That’s a lesson worth learning.”

______

Switch off and log out for a while you will be amazed what is around you.

“Make yourself invulnerable to your dependency on comfort and convenience, or one day your vulnerability might bring you to your knees”

Andy

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I am not worried. I am worried

I’m not worried about raising girls. Girls who will have to deal with harassment on a daily basis.

I’m worried about people raising boys.

People not raising boys right. Boys who one day will become men. Men that my girls might come across.

I’m worried people will continue to not challenge the behaviour of the men they live and work with.

Journaling with Evernote

“ I don’t want to live in a hand-me-down world of others’ experiences. I want to write about me, my discoveries, my fears, my feelings, about me.”

⁃Helen Keller

I have found a feeling of vulnerability since becoming a parent. Not only aware of the fragility of my children’s lives but the fragility of my life and the speed that the years fly by.

If I was to die tomorrow I’d like the children to know who I am. Not to be told your dad was like this or that he thought this about that subject and so on. Or worse, for them to be told you are like your dad. I want them to know exactly who I am ideally from sharing a long fulfilled life together.

If that isn’t an option I’d like them to know who I was and what I thought from my own words, which lead me to writing a journal.

I struggled to write a journal I would aim to write it daily. It isn’t something I am able to carry with me on a daily basis. So it’s something I would write at the end of the day.

I started well sitting down before bed and writing thoughts and synopsis of the day, slowly it became bi-daily and then weekly and eventually a chore. Trying to remember a weeks worth of thoughts ideas and events became something of homework I didn’t want to do.

I began writing down notes on my phone as thoughts came to me or funny moments that I wanted to share along with a brief daily synopsis to then transfer into my journal. This became even more of a chore and felt like it was taking up too much time copying one to the other. I looked at several apps as I always have my phone on me. It had to be free ( Tight git ) It had to be accessible to others if I die. It had to be backed up some where without a data or word cap on it. I tried several but non were as customisable as I wanted. I was still new to journaling and struggling with getting my thoughts across and brief if time was short.

Ideally you should, I feel find the time to sit in a quiet corner and really focus on the day and what you want to put down in your journal. However this isn’t always possible. So I looked for a hack a quick and easy way to journal.

Which lead me to bullet journaling.

There are hundreds of YouTube videos of beautiful and amazing bullet journals and ideas. Which as clever and creative as they were, again became time-consuming. I really like the idea of bullet journaling and the several categories and symbols you can create. You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to bullet journaling. But once again it would involve carrying a journal around with me or making notes and adding them to my journal. Again searched for apps but found none of them were as customisable as I wanted.

Whilst searching for ideas I was reminded of Evernote a place to store documents on-line and control who can see the notes and documents you post. It’s also fully customisable as I want it to be.

In Evernote you create notebooks with these notebooks you can create stacks.

As seen here

You can see that I have created several stacks.

With stacks Evernote always puts them in chronological order.

So ensure you number them in the order you wish to have them appear.

Each stack is basically a list of notebooks. Within these notebooks you can add unlimited amounts of notes. Again they show in chronological order. I always put the date as the title so they show in order of latest entry.

Within each stack I have notebooks with my customised categories.

 

 

Daily journal.

This is my everyday journal. Not always a written journal sometimes it can be a photo or photos that I have taken of that day.

Reflection.

This is a list of philosophy and poetry that have struck a chord with me. It is always growing and I will often go back and re-read it.

 

Books to read.

This is a list of books I have read and yet to read.

 

Selfish wants.

This is an unusual list.

It’s a list of material things that I would buy if I could. They are not huge items. It’s things like a watch, trainers, camera etc. Things I could afford but it would mean pulling money from one area to another. It’s things I can do without to make sure it’s spent on the girls. It’s more of a backwards reminder for me, to remind me what I am happy to go without.

 

Places to see with the girls.

This is a list of places and things that I’d like to see and do with the girls. Something’s are ticked off and if they are a description of where, when and what we did with photos is attached to that note.

One very good feature with Evernote is the ability to search via keywords. So if you have a particular day or trip away for example you can easily search it out.

If I struggle for something to write that day I always refer to my journal ideas and questions.

Journal ideas

Feeling proud today.

Internals rather than externals.

Thought for the day.

Mood of the day.

Failed/ struggled with today.

Something nice for someone today. “Altruism”

Trained today.

Brief description of the day.

Hopes, adventures and future plans

I also decided to become organised and adult a little.

I have a finance stack.

Within this is a list of monthly bills. Outgoing’s, dates and the amounts etc..

I also have a notebook where I can scan receipts and store them for safe keeping. Warranties etc.. fortunately, touch wood, we haven’t had to buy or replace any large items or white goods.

But it’s handy to have if we need to.

I should add a caveat here that this isn’t sponsored or paid and endorsed by Evernote. It’s something I use and found extremely useful.

Do you use a journal?

If you have any tips or ideas to use as a busy parent please share in the comments.

Andy.

The Bug

I am tired of being tired and talking about how tired I am.

– Amy Poehler

Currently in the UK we have the bug.

A sickness bug.

Traveling from area to area from school to school.

I generally lack sympathy. I am very empathetic but sympathy for people I have non.

Which might be some what of an oxymoron. I don’t know.

Children are pretty much little walking Petri dishes of bacteria and illness ready to attack at any point.

This weekend we had our 3 year old daughters 4th birthday party. All week building up to it kids have been pulled out of school or worse, children were been dropped off looking an interesting shade of green whilst their parents disappeared like a flash out of the school gates. Reports of children been segregated into the ill class room with other children who had the bug at both ends. Parents strangely we’re now Un-contactable.

With this information we decided to take all our children out of school for the last 2 days of the week.

We have spent a lot of money ( to us ) on a party with surprise magician clown and we did not want her or her sisters missing it due to catching the dreaded Bug.

My wife took them to the new local library. Been educational and all since they were out of school. 5 minutes into been there a child puked all over the place. The mother of the puking child did very little by apology and tried to rub it away into the shiny new carpet.

So after that we had two days of lock down. We did it. We managed to have them all there with no sign of the dreaded bug.

A great party and a great fun day.

11 pm that night.

Shit.

Pukesville.

Our eldest can not stop throwing up.

What a trooper though, she amazed us. She is very much the dramatic and sensitive one.

Too tired and too ill to moan she wouldn’t leave the side of the toilet incase she was going to be sick again. Which in turn means tag team time for me and my wife. Passing each other with heavy bags under our eyes.

She is fortunately better and now back to her normal self.

Moaning about anything and everything.

Now I just hope we have managed to keep her quarantined enough that the others do not get it.

Because I’ve got really tired of it.

The hardest thing as a parent especially in a larger family is the ability to be able to function when one or a few of you are ill. The border line sleep torture followed by a lack of much needed structure means daily happy life goes out of the window. Tempers fray due to the lack of sleep and generally feeling like crap.

I can’t wait for normality to return. Or at least children with the energy to moan and for me to have the energy to cope with it.

Andy.

Stoicism saved my life and makes me a better parent.

“The task of a philosopher: we should bring our will into harmony with whatever happens, so that nothing happens against our will and nothing that we wish for fails to happen. “

– Epictetus, Discourses, 2.14.7

A cliché I know.

For a while now I have been on a journey of self-improvement of mind, body and spirit.
It as been my saving grace, along this journey I have found ( as enlightening as “found ” sounds ) Stoicism

Stoicism has saved my life.

I am depressed in the same was an alcoholic is an alcoholic. In the same way that once you are an alcoholic you always will be an alcoholic. Hopefully a sober one.

I’ve looked back to try to pinpoint when I became “depressed” to continue and use the analogy of an alcoholic I don’t think they is one specific moment when I had my first drink and that was it. It’s been somewhat of a life long slow spiral which ultimately resulted in hitting rock bottom and almost taking my life.

I hate excuses and actively try not to make them for my circumstances or frustrations or for the reason that I am depressed.
Our actions knowingly or unknowingly ultimately lead us to the lives we live and are living today. It’s then for us to adjust it accordingly. This can mean taking several paths constantly trying to change the course of our journey as we take every step. Many of us live in a system we can’t change and for many years I fought against it. Blaming the way the world is set up as the reasons for my depression and frustration.

Stoicism as helped to change how I think and view the world. I would often stay awake debating in my head how I could help countries that I’ve never visited change their laws and the way they treat their citizens. Frustrated at the way people are forced to live, in my own country the depriving situations people find themselves in. Angry and deeper into my depression, using the excuse of the way politicians act to justify how I acted and felt. Blaming them for my situation and unhappiness.

The repetitive consistent daily practice of Stoicism along with regular exercise keeps me balanced more than any medication, like many things in life you can’t change and become “better” until you are open and willing to. Thankfully I was willing to.

The one thing that Stoicism has given me is the tools and a different way of thinking to deal with life. Tools I either forgot, lost or never had before.

Tools that I try to pass on to my children.

I don’t want my children to be depressed. I don’t mean sad. I mean depressed like I am at times. Unless you have felt or lived with the suffocating feel of depression its a very hard thing to imagine or sympathise with.
I want them to be strong.

Mentally strong with the tools to handle life and the shit that is often continuously and relentlessly thrown at you.

For a long time I saw parenting as a sprint race I wanted them to know me and all the skills needed for life, now !!!!
I didn’t expect to be alive and was very aware of how quickly it could all end.
I now see parenting as a long ultra race. Months and months of preparation ready to steadily hit the path in front and keep going through the highs and lows along the way.

Toddlers lose their shit at the slightest thing.
Their socks feel funny, the kiwi fruit looks too hairy, their sister said they’re a poo head. The list goes on and on.
I would try to force wisdom into them at these moments explaining that a hairy kiwi was normal, that this is how it had grown. That the amount of hair on the outside was irrelevant when all the tasty bit was inside of it.

yes it went as well a you are imagining it went.

I now try to lead by example, not losing my shit when I get cut up in traffic or when the cashier at the till is rude.
Little sayings and mantras are drip fed without their knowledge. Mantras they now repeat, changes in behaviour with each other and there frustrations as become visible to us for the better. slowly but surely we are all getting better. slowly there are developing coping measures that they need to live life.

Of course all of this is well and good until they lose their shit over the last crisp they are eating falling on to the floor.

At which point my Stoic practice goes out of the window and I go and rock in the corner until the crying stops.

Realising I know nothing and to just try to hang on to my own sanity and hopefully they will turn out right.

If they don’t I’ll give them a few books and wish them good luck.

Andy.

Be like Goggins, Live like Jay