Depression, My Secret Power for Personal Growth and Fulfillment

Depression, My Secret Power for Personal Growth and Fulfillment

Depression, My Secret Power for Personal Growth and Fulfillment

My Half Decade Journey to Recreate My Entire Life

Originally published April 2018.

This post has literally been in the writing for approaching two years. I’ve gone back and forth, editing and rearranging it, but it’s time enough.

I want to share my story of a spiraling descent that had me a hair’s width from full mental breakdown, and flipping between locking myself in my room for days, and acting incredibly recklessly with my closest relationships.

I want to talk about what depression is and isn’t (courtesy of science).

I want to talk about how I believe that this horrific illness, with a LOT of work, can be used as the most potent driver of self transformation I’ve ever experienced. How misery so dark it sends shivers down my spine just thinking about it, can be the impetus that drives you to completely restructure everything in your life, from those ashes birthing something that you find truly extraordinary.

But most of all, I want people to have a greater understanding of this illness.

Often times it’s still shrugged off by society as weakness, when in fact having the vulnerability to even speak about it takes vast courage for a great number of men (generally).

Western society as a whole still does a great job of projecting an image of the emotionless, tough guy as the perfect man. Out in the wilderness, felling trees with his hand axe and wrestling grizzly bears for laughs.

I am maaaaaaannnn

But here’s the big, grizzly problem with that image — it raises a massive amount of men that really don’t know how to deal with their emotions. Not only are they unable or unwilling to communicate their emotions to others, they don’t even know what their emotions feel like.

The sad truth is that the biggest killer of men in many Western societies, isn’t car crashes or drugs, criminal violence or war, it’s themselves.

In the UK, suicide is the largest killer of men under FORTY FUCKING FIVE. It breaks my heart to think of so many people, feeling so lost, so isolated and so unable to change their lives, that they feel the only resort is to take that life…

A Lead Blanket and a Knot in Your Stomach.

You’re under water, a metal barrel hoop is tight around your chest, it has enough room for you to breathe, but not by much.

You’re slow, floating but heavy.

Sounds are distant and muffled.

You’re not in water, but thick tar.

It’s difficult to move, you’re so tired.

Leaving the house is exhausting. Replying to friends is exhausting. Getting out of bed is exhausting.

So you shut down, switch your phone off, remain in bed, and watch every romantic comedy in existence whilst you survive on peanut butter, hoping that these elicit some feelings.

They do not.

Dating is near impossible.

If you can manage to catch someone’s interest, how are you supposed to keep it, when 90% of the time the last thing you feel like is seeing to or talking to anyone.

Gemma Correll

Your ambition, all of your energy and motivation, these are all directed towards working for goals in your future, but you existing in the now, so they evaporate away.

This pisses you off.

You’re defined in a large part by your drive, enthusiasm and passion to do big things.

That part of you is gone.

You feel pretty sure that the driven part of you will come back, but again, that is in the future, which has little meaning for you.

You get impatient and annoyed waking up each day, thinking “Is my motivation back?! Am I me again?!

Only for the cold slap of reality to hit you in the face, and normally before you’re even up for 5 minutes and out of the shower.

Nope. Still broken. And into nothingness you slide.

Are you sad?

Nope.

You wish you felt sad.

You feel nothing.

You’re an empty husk.

On the surface that is.

Just below, a maelstrom rages…

You’re subconscious is a vicious, raging storm of self doubt, worries, anxieties and potential situations blown so far out of reality, they border on insanity.

But you don’t know this.

You’ve no idea what these emotions feel like.

You’ve spent all of your adult life up until now making a conscious decision to take any complex negative emotion, and to squish it down into a tiny box to bury somewhere in your depths.

You just feel a knot in your stomach. A lethargy. A shutdown.

And when you do get a glimpse at these feelings.

When some are actually so intense they break through your decade built barrier of stifled emotions and shut down feelings.

You are struck with such an intensely burning, yet bone chilling dread, you’ll find yourself feeling so trapped and helpless, that you just want to scream and cry, and act in ways that are so selfish and against your character, that you’ll start to question who you really are.

Yup… Elysian Dreams Tumblr

That is just a peak behind the curtain at what depression feels like.

Guess what.

It.

Fucking.

Sucks.

I get depression.

Due to what was a shocking lack of connection to my own emotions, I’m not even sure how long it has been happening for.

At least 6 years I’d say.

I’ve only been aware of it, and working my arse of to fix it for the last two years. And even still, with a colossal amount of self reflection, communication and personal work, I still get a mild but manageable wave every month or two.

How did I get depression?

So, I believe I’ve got a good handle on the inciting incident, and years later, the combination of life circumstances that started the typhoon of dread. All of the circumstances are varied, but all put me in a situation where I FELT trapped and thus panicked, and FELT like it was necessary for me to remain in those situations, and thus I did for far longer than was good for my health.

1. Shooting Myself in the Foot

I’m perhaps 14–15 years old. I’m in my first serious relationship. We’ve been together for about a year.

 

Apart from the occasional rumor of my partner’s lack of faith, which I confidently brush off as just that; rumor, often with panicked persuasion from her. It seems to be going well.

 

I think I’m in love.

Yes, I’m aware of how silly this may sound, but a whole swathe of mental and social issues are ingrained in people in their teens and younger from experiences they find extremely traumatic.

And what happened next sure felt extremely traumatic to me at the time.

It comes to light, that she’s been cheating on me with MY BEST FRIEND. That he’s been secretly messaging her, hooking up with her, and convincing her that I’ll be happy if she breaks up with me to be with him.

 

What’s more, after several story changes, she only tells me that she likes “one of my friends” when she finally shatters my illusion, and leaves me. A situation that he uses to quickly put the blame on my other closest friend, causing me to all at once have my little life shattered.

 

My girlfriend and my two closest friends. Gone. I don’t know who to believe. I don’t know who to trust.

 

It freaks me out so fucking much, that it’s one of my most vivid memories of my young teens.

This didn’t start my depression, but it was almost certainly the inciting incident that caused me to change my personality in an unproductive way.

I made the conscious decision that I wasn’t going to feel negative emotions. That I was just going to turn them off. And it worked, for a time. In fact, I really enjoyed that about me, for a time.

I essentially practiced half of stoicism for the next 6–7 years. I decided not to react to my emotions. But unlike stoicism, I did not reflect on these emotions, on what they meant, on how I should make a measured reaction to them.

I just squished them down so deep in side of my subconscious, that I needed not deal with them.

This technique was operating on borrowed time.

I’d shot myself in the foot.

It was a dumb move. More dumb than internet people … 😑

2. Cage of the Self Competition

This is the first situation that caused me to realize I was depressed, to put a name to it.

It’s my fourth and final year of university.

 

I’ve selected to study physics as I want to learn how to universe works.

 

I’m sure the problem solving and mindset it will give will be great for business, which I’ve been doing since I was 15–16.

I do think that physics was really great for me. I absolutely loved learning it and I really do think it’s crazy helpful (it’s also Elon musk’s suggested degree, and that dude is doing okay I hear).

But, I still find myself sitting in the senior tutors office, half way through my final year explaining to him that I just don’t care anymore, that I think I’m depressed.

 

I’ve come to university to study physics because I wanted to learn about it. I don’t need the degree for a career.

 

The conflict arises between this and my overly ambitious brain. Exacerbated by the fact that I’ve received a job offer in a marketing role, and the founder of the company had no interest in whether I get the degree or not.

 

When I’m in lectures learning about physics, or running experiments, it’s awesome, I love it.

 

But when it comes to exams, I just have no motivation to do well other than “I want to do well because I need to win”.

 

This conflict is colossal for me. It’s this feeling that’s making me feel trapped.

 

I won’t drop out or do worse because my competitive brain won’t let me.

 

This is one of the first times I seriously consider that I’m medically depressed.

 

Again, I cut down any thoughts of concern for my mental health, repressing any emotions and intelligent thoughts about quitting deep into my subconscious.

 

In this final year, I grit my teeth and make myself work 10–15 hours almost every single day from the start of the summer holidays, until I finish my exams. So 10–11 months at that rate.

 

I really, really have to recruit all of my brain drive. I force myself through a deep, overriding feeling that I don’t need the degree (true), that the final mark is just a stupid number (also true), and that there are better things I can be working on that will contribute much more towards my future (true again).

Was it worth it?

Fuck no.

It did a number on my brain. For what? I could have tried 10x less to get the same degree without the top grade.

But, do I regret it?

No.

In many ways, I really did love university. I made some amazing friends there and I don’t think I’d be half the person I am today if I didn’t go.

As painful as it was to force myelf to do a year of straight lunatic work, this would serve me well when working long hours on my own business when I had to do less fulfilling parts of it.

It gave me an incredible insight into a vast array of people, their motives, drives, and ultimately into the structure of society itself.

University let me understand how the world actually works, and made me a better person on reflection, I just wish I could have had all of those benefits without breaking my brain.

3. Cage of Fear

I’ve graduated from university and am staying in a small converted shed in Worcestershire, rented on Airbnb with my girlfriend of seven years.

 

She’s a sweet, kind girl, and has sacrificed a lot for me.

 

She started university a year later than me, and so decided to join one in Derby, a city an hour away from where I studied in Birmingham, so we didn’t have to try long distance.

 

She found a wildlife volunteering job about 20 minutes walk from where I lived, so she could stay over and work whilst I studied.

 

She even went to great lengths to find a job that was close to Birmingham, as I’d already firmly said to her that I had a job here, and I only wanted to take it (more on my dream job next).

 

She studied zoology, and as you might imagine, people love animals, and they’re willing to work for nothing or pennies to get a job with animals. This makes finding a decent job in the entire country difficult, let alone within an hour or so of one city.

 

And me? Something just isn’t right with me, brewing deep inside.

 

I just don’t feel that we want the same things, or that we are heading in the same direction.

 

But guess what. I have no fucking idea how to communicate this. Again, because I’ve crushed all aptitude to communicate with my emotions deep into my subconscious, and thus I’m unable to understand and communicate them with others.

 

The worst part is this issue doesn’t often creep into day to day life. But, when the emotions burst through, I realize very quickly that I feel horribly trapped. Instead of dealing with them, I go into complete emotional shutdown until they subsided.

 

I spend months in that shed stuck in bed all day whilst she’s working a summer job.

 

I’m meant to be building my business, Provos during this time in preparation to test pitch it to investors in India in a few months, but I’m not.

 

I’m just sat in bed playing video games and watching movies. Anything to distract myself from focusing on the chasm of emptiness that pervades the rest of my existence.

 

What I end up with is a relationship that in many ways is great, coupled with this orchestral, low rumbling dread that if they’re not the right person, then at some point we’ll have to break up.

 

And as we both continue to grow and develop into the people we want to be. People that are less aligned with the futures of each other. That rumbling dread becomes a vicious, deafening chorus of pain.

 

But there’s never a good time to break up.

 

Breaking up fucking sucks.

 

And guess what.

 

The longer I leave it, the worse it gets. As the pressures and expectations of family, friends and my partner rise and rise.

 

When are you getting a house together?

 

When are you going to get married?

 

When will you have grandchildren so I can have a baby girl to play with? (Mum 😑)

 

As the clock ticks and ticks and the decision becomes more and more monumental.

 

I just shut down.

 

I’m crippled in a cage of fear for what happens to the lives we’ve so closely intertwined when I rip them apart.

 

I feel fear because I know we’ll have to break up, I’ve known it for a long time, but I keep suppressing and forgetting, but it keeps building.

 

I feel fear because she won’t see it coming and it will crush her, and I don’t want to do that.

 

I find a near unlimited amount of reasons to put it off over and over, making me feel trapped and paralyzed.

Waiting kills both of you. Action kills both of you. Sayuri1314 Deviant Art

All at once, just a few days after Christmas, after months of trying to understand my depression, and starting to build the ability to communicate with my emotions and my partner, we have a conversation that ends everything in roughly 20 minutes.

 

I’m shell shocked, and it’s miserable, but it’s necessary for us both to grow.

So there’s depression trigger number two, being in a relationship with someone that through no fault of their own, no longer aligns with your future.

I have no regrets about being in the relationship.

I do of the many poor ways in which I handled parts of it, but I don’t regret it. It’s a big part of what’s built me into the person I am today. And I keep liking myself more and more, month by month.

4. Cage of Apathy

It’s university and I’ve been running the entrepreneurs society for a couple of years. I’ve met my future boss Mike via that several times.

 

He’s a super awesome guy, really one of the most genuinely nice, patient guys I know, someone I’ve got loads of respect for.

 

A natural entrepreneur, oozing charisma and fun.

 

I know his company is growing so I pitch myself to him about a year before I finish my studies. He’s a part of the New Entrepreneurs Foundation, and suggests I apply for it.

NEF pays a significant amount of money for you to receive world class business training. You work with a host company for a year, and your host company also pays a significant amount to NEF in part to pay for this training, as well as giving you one or two extra days off a month to go for training events in London.

NEF seeks to build the business leaders of tomorrow and it’s an awesome program, where I’ve met some of the most impressive people I’ve ever encountered.

Mike offers to be my host company if I’m able to get on to NEF. On top of this, he gives me an extra three weeks off near the start of my contract to go to India for three weeks to check out the entrepreneur ecosystem there and to test pitching the startup I’ve been working on for several years to investors and grant providers.

 

I get on NEF, and I land what what is my dream job, or at least that’s what I convince myself.

 

I can basically do anything I want, marketing or online business related, to make some more money for the company. I have free reign to try out any fun strategies I want. And this is completely irrespective of how my degree goes. I could drop out of university and still have this job.

 

I’m so pumped for it, it’s perfect and exactly what I thought I was looking for.

 

I know I can do online marketing, I’ve done it before. At this exact company even!

 

During the summer before I start the job, when I’m living in the “shed”, I spend two weeks there, a brief period of relative positivity. I helped identify and develop a strategy that scales out to bring in the bulk of their revenue for months and months.

 

I’m even more pumped up now. My brain is exploding with possibilities.

 

But after I start. I just can’t move the needle.

 

I try for months, I really do, but I just can’t muster the creativity, intelligence or persistence to develop effective marketing channels.

 

I’m not working effectively, despite often being convinced I am.

 

It confuses and frustrates me, a lot.

 

A whole chunk of my self confidence is tied up in my ability to pull this off. Marketing is something I’ve never had a formal education in. Am I even any good at it?

 

Tsunamis of doubt crash over me.

 

Over my first four months there I start sliding faster and faster, until, I brake up with my girlfriend of seven years as I mention above.

 

This delivered slithers of respite due to finally making a decision, the lack of which has been slowly, and ever more noticeably crushing me for years. And again, it’s something that’s definitely the right move to make, and that needed to be made.

 

But mainly, at this time, is something that succeeds to further whiplash me into a spiral of misery.

 

I need to find a place to live, and figure if I move in with other people it will be great way to pick myself up again.

 

I go out house hunting and one of the first places I come across is cheap, close enough to work and another 5 people live there. I don’t get a chance to meet them, but with 5 others, I figure I’ll make at least one friend to hang with.

 

Amazing, just what I need.

 

Except it isn’t.

 

The people that live there are either never in, or are so nervous, they’ll not enter the kitchen if someone else is in there, for fear of conversation perhaps.

 

All of my friends moved to London after graduating.

 

I’m alone, trapped by a contract, and with an ever growing confusion at my inability to make money for this company.

 

For months I continue to spiral down and down, like one of those penny drop toys where the coin spins round and round towards the abyss.

 

Within minutes of waking into the office I’m completely under water.

 

I arrive in the office and just stare at my screen for hours and hours. Sometimes a whole day passes and I’m not be convinced I’ve even attempted anything. Time passes like treacle.

 

I just wear sweatpants and gym clothes and in general exude a vibe of “lazy and unmotivated”, because I’m lost, I’m drowning. This isn’t unnoticed by other people in the office.

 

I spend increasing lengths of time just sat in a toilet cubicle staring at the wall. I’m just listening to a low humming noise, like I’ve been near a bomb that’s gone off, that permeates every moment of my existence.

Felt a little something like this. Shawn Coss Art

I start acting increasingly erratic, short sighted, self centered and self sabotaging.

 

My whole world starts to close in to a tunnel existing only in the now (but not in the fun, mindful, live in the now way..)

 

At the crescendo of this malice, I convince myself that I really just need some adventure.

 

That adventure will fix me. We’ve traveled abroad to do remote work before and it’s been fun and productive.

 

So, with that simplified down so nicely in my head, I book a flight to Barcelona that returns a week later.

 

And then I tell my boss about it.

 

“That’s an interesting way to ask to work remotely”

 

Is his calm, but clearly shocked and somewhat upset response.

fuck, fuck, fuck, Fuck, Fuck, FUCK.

And then my whole world comes crashing down around me.

 

The short sightedness, the lack of professionalism, it just being a shitty thing to do to my boss who’s been beyond supportive of my struggles with depression for my whole time working here.

 

I near vomit.

 

No bueno.

 

Anyway, I go to Spain.

 

I panic work.

 

I walk to the seaside.

 

I sit down on a bench at the docks..

 

And I. Just. Break.

 

I have a piercing moment of really, deeply missing my ex.

 

I’m full on ugly crying, and I don’t give a fuck what any passers by think.

 

The trip is nice, but doesn’t fix the problem.

 

Fuck.

 

I don’t know what the problem is, and my confusion just rises.

 

What the fuck is up?

 

Why can’t I just get the motivation and drive to make this work?

 

Am I no good at marketing?

 

Do I even know anything about my abilities?

 

Fuck. I just want. to.

 

Ahh.

 

I. JUST. WANT. TO. SCR. AHHHHH.

I just want to scream. Krains Deviant Art.

In hindsight, it’s more obvious.

I’d just spent 4 years feeling trapped by university, being irritated that I couldn’t just do my own thing.

I also split with my long term girlfriend and was dealing with the emotional fallout of that.

So the problem wasn’t the job, so much as it was me having any job.

Consciously I was all in with it. I really thought it was a company I’d stay at, and I told many close friends this.

Subconsciously, I knew I needed to just do my own thing.

Unsurprisingly, what I’d spent the last 6–7 years of my life wanting, I still wanted. The job seemed like a perfect fit, something that could still get me to my goals, but that didn’t provide the journey to them I really wanted, deep down.

I’d built an invisible cage of apathy for myself. I thought I loved the job. I didn’t.

I needed complete control over my life. I needed to do whatever I wanted. I needed complete responsibility to both succeed and potentially fail horribly.

That conflict, rooted by years of desires was again ignored by my logical brain suppressing my emotions deep into my subconscious.

Depression is subconscious. It’s the storm of thoughts and doubts just below the surface, raging and spiraling so rapidly that you’ve no idea what the real cause is, what they’re saying.

I’d got onto NEF, I couldn’t afford it without a host company, which just so happened to be working with an entrepreneur I’d been inspired by, and wanted to learn from, doing essentially whatever I wanted, in the field I wanted to dive into, and it was only a year, right?

It was so easy to convince myself that it was the perfect idea for me, and standing alone that’s still correct. But, this neglects the years of desire to do my own thing, 100%, and circumstance trapping me from being able to do so.

Again, I have no regrets about this job. But, once again, I do regret how I acted at times, and my boss was BEYOND patient and understanding throughout it all. Like, really.

I’m certain I’d not be succeeding at the moment if I’d not had this job.

It taught me a LOT about taking action vs planning, convincing me that bootstrapping was what I wanted to do, and being efficient at doing so.

I just couldn’t pull it together in time to make it work.

What Causes Depression?

That’s my story of how various circumstances came together to cripple the brain of someone that on the surface, had (and has), it pretty damn sweet.

Now I want to dive into a little more on the science of depression, how to deal with it as an outsider, and as someone suffering with it.

So, being me, needing to know everything about everything, and also having the crazy strong urge to stop feeling absolutely, fucking, shit, I did some research!

First up, I’m not a doctor, don’t take my word on these things, be smart. I’m talking based on research I’ve done and based on my own experience.

They seem to align pretty nicely.

Depression is often caused by being trapped in situations that induce panic or fear in you.

Let’s look at evolution a little (apologies if I butcher this).

Situation 1

You’re on the plains of Africa.

Some big ol lion is coming for you.

An adrenaline rush kicks your fight or flight response in and you run.

Fear over, adrenaline subsides.

Or you’re eaten, in which case you’re out of the evolution game.

So fight or flight gets passed on genetically.

Situation 2

Plains of Africa again.

Your an infant and said lion eats your mother.

Again, adrenaline rush strikes so you’re ready for action, but you’re an infant so you’re not going anywhere.

As the lion is prowling around for you for ages, you either;

instinctively cry out for your mother (in which case you get eaten, again, you’re out of the evolution game

OR

you instinctively quieten down, stay in the bushes in this state and hope your tribe fam comes and gets you.

They do.

You win the evolution game.

So, theory goes, that’s the genetic basis for quieting down in some scary situations.

The issue is, in the modern world this is taken to extremes.

Our stupid monkey brains don’t know the difference between fear of lions and fear of deadlines. For much of our lives, especially for ambitious people, deadlines, tests, getting the job, these are all fearful pressures that we make up in our heads.

These freak us the fuck out all day, every day, for months at a time.

And what does months of made up, constant fear do to your brain?

Depression.

After feeling trapped for so long with so much underlying panic about success, needing things to go right or your life is fucked, after months or years of this, your brain rewires itself giving depressive disorder.

More evidence for this is that depression is a strikingly first world issue.

Tribal communities who objectively live much tougher, more harsh lives than Westerners do, have next to no cases of depression.

They live in tight nit social groups of 50–200 who they spend all of their time with, and they don’t have these constant panics about needing to succeed or else be miserable and unfulfilled for all of their lives.

Two things that can’t be said for a vast number of young people today.

So many young people willingly sacrifice happiness now, for the promise of more happiness later, often tied up with money.

“If I just grit my teeth and stick with this shit job I’ll be able to get promoted, and then I can buy a nice house and car and I’ll be happy.”

There are two common, negative ways this plays out:

  1. You grit your teeth and suffer for 5 years at a job you hate, jump up the chain and the things that would actually fulfill you, don’t, because you’ve fucked up your brain in the process and can’t be happy.
  2. You grit your teeth and suffer for 5 years at a job you hate, jump up the chain and the money, the house, the car, they don’t actually fulfill you, you’ve been solve a false dream. Oh, and you’re brain is also fucked up from the process.

Neither seem that great hey?

Depression is often a results of ignoring your feelings or gut, and just suffering with short term pain for long term results.

This can be a sound strategy if you really would feel better by achieving those long term results, but often you’ve not thought about why you actually want them. Often it’s because society as a whole (which benefits from you working like a maniac and not thinking all that much) tells you that you want these results.

The human brain isn’t wired for happiness. Happiness doesn’t help you survive. The human brain wants you to constantly desire more. It’s natural to constantly move the goal posts and think you’ll be more satisfied, or satisfied for longer with these results than is actually accurate.

So what happens to many? Constant cycles of accepting misery, for delayed happiness that will never come.

How to Deal with Depression?

First up, if you know someone that’s depressed, please don’t mistake them for being sad.

Please don’t ask them WHY they’re sad.

1. They’re likely not sad, they just feel nothing, and this is scary. If they are sad, they’re sad because they are worried that they will never feel anything again.

2. They don’t know what the fuck the problem is. The best they can likely do is lay out all the potential issues that may be causing this bout. If, “luckily” there is only one big problem in their life at the moment, they may have an easier time with this. But in most cases, they will have few clues to what the problem actually is.

Its subconscious.

😶

Honestly, I think the best thing you can do for a friend or loved on that’s depressed, is to be there to support them. Understand them, and be there to talk to them if they need it.

As you may gather from my personal story, my depression could have likely been avoided had I been more capable of communicating, both with my emotions, and with others.

If this is the case for the person you care about, just talking to them, trying to dig into what they’re experiencing can be by far the most helpful thing for them.

Depression is an illness of the brain. A good conversation and some new realisations really can pull someone out of a depressive episode. Sometimes, lifting that fog can be enough for them to realise that fixing the problem is possible, it is worth it.

Don’t be mistaken into thinking that one conversation will fix the problem. As I mentioned, I’ve been working on this actively for years, and it’s still not completely fixed. It’s a rewiring of the brain, and these depressive patterns take a long time to rewire. But one conversation can reveal the path to health, which is the first step to getting over it.

So, I’d made out in the title like depression can be a good thing and all I’ve done is talk about how much it sucks.

Well..

1. Haha, I fooled you, it fucking sucks. Avoid if at all possible.

2. There is some truth to the title!

In a weird double edged sword, the subconscious nature of depression — not knowing what causes it, can be quite helpful.

When I feel depressed, I can either:

  • Lie in bed eating junk food and watching Netflix (which I often do for a day, just to give myself a break)
  • Make a list of every possible problem in my life and start addressing them one at a time until I feel better.

The useful byproduct of this is that solving all of these problems is good for me and my development as a person.

If I’m not feeling fulfilled and I don’t know why, I feel depressed. If I feel depressed, I have to make myself better by fixing or actively working on every problem I currently have in my life — making me feel fulfilled.

It’s like a radar for fulfillment. Or unfulfillment? Anyway, it’s not all doom and gloom is what I’m getting at!

Over time, you’ll likely notice patterns emerge.

Do you often worry about wanting more adventure, more alone time, more social time?

More dates, less dates?

Working harder? Relaxing more?

Having a constant assessment (I do think in a daily journal) of what your problems may be, helps you get to grips with things that actually make you feel trapped and unhappy.

This can be the first step in figuring out what your perfect life actually look like.

By looking at what makes you unhappy and unfulfilled, you may be able to tease out the core values and drives that do make you feel fulfilled.

For me, I can see few less respectable pursuits than finding out what actually fulfills and motivates you, what gets you up in the morning, and constructing a life that allows you to fill ever increasing amounts of your time with that.

Another enormous benefits is my increased connection with my subconscious allows me to understand much more quickly if I’m not working in the right direction, or if I need some down time.

It’s like growing a muscle. The more I reflect on and think about my subconscious emotions, the more I get it right. The more you practice giving yourself space when you need it, the better you get at doing that quickly, and communicating to others that you either need space or support.

The final large benefit that comes to mind is the vast level up in emotional intelligence I’ve had. I’ve met a vast array of people whilst traveling and studying. Different ages, nationalities and backgrounds. And the one thing that really seems to reveal people’s emotional maturity, is how much shit they’ve been through.

Going through awful ordeals and coming out the other side gives you immense emotional fortitude. These people are the most empathetic, as the can really feel the pain of others, they’ve experienced it. They’re much more selfless and giving of themselves. They’re much more patient, having experienced that resolving trauma takes time, no matter how quick you want it fixed.

So there you have it, there’s a silver lining. I’d really not recommend becoming depressed just to fix it and become better… But, if you are depressed, just know that working on it and overcoming it will almost certainly leave you a person you have a deep respect for.

To finish with some advice; if you do feel the way I’ve mentioned (you might not have even considered that it might be depression) then my biggest suggestions would be:

1. Talk to someone about it. If you don’t want to go to a doctor, just tell a friend.

Honestly, as soon as I realised I had depression, I decided I was going to own it and I started being open about it.

2. Try writing down things you’re worried about. Write out what’s the worst that happens if you change and don’t change them.

Often the act of getting the thoughts that are cycling around your head out and on to paper, really helps to show that you’re just worrying about nothing, or not much.

3. Meditation can really help. Again, if you’re depressed, chances are you’re not the best at communicating with your subconscious feelings. Meditation can help to change this.

No spirity woo woo necessary (unless that’s yo jam), there’s a shit tonne of rigorous science backing up the effectiveness of meditation.

If you’re miserable, you can spare 10 minutes a day for something that can have a profound difference (even if you only keep it up for 3–4 months like I did.).

4. Chat to a doctor. By all means try out the suggestions above if a doctor scares you too much, but do know that for many, many people, professional counseling / coaching, and medication are needed to get over this. I know many people that have used anxiety and depression medication and it’s been a game changer for them.

Don’t play with your life, seek appropriate help.

It’s not your fault, it’s society, they’ve broken your brain.

Fuck yooou society.

Start working at it, give yourself space when you feel down, write about ittalk to someone (even though that’s the absolute last thing you will feel like doing), meditate.

It takes a long time to rewire your brain, so be patient, but know that if you keep making small but definite steps towards getting better, you will get there!

I guess if you know anyone that this might help, send them a link? I found that seeing someone describe my exact symptoms in a post under the name “depression” helped me realize I did have a problem and should start trying to fix it.

Final note — Once again, if you know someone that’s depressed, please don’t try to fix them. If you’re depressed, you’ve got to make the decision yourself to get help, so just be supportive and understanding of them. Get them to text you if they’re feeling down and call them, they won’t want to talk but it will help!

Peaceee

Yo, I’m Connor!

I’m a smart person. I don’t do smart things.

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The Profound Lesson Learned Whilst Driving a Motorbike Off a Cliff in Vietnam

The Profound Lesson Learned Whilst Driving a Motorbike Off a Cliff in Vietnam

A secret to wipe anger, sorrow, and frustration from your brain?

Originally published January 2018.

It’s 10 am on my 26th birthday. We’ve been on our bikes for 30 minutes, traversing the drizzled, foggy hills outside of Dong Van, a picturesque town on Vietnam’s northern border with China.

The eight of us zip up and down the quarried slopes, our tracks flanked by the sheer drops that make East Asia’s limestone cliffs so awe inspiring.

Thang tears ahead on his enormous dirt bike, easily conquering the “roads”. By this point in our odyssey we’d come to learn these were little more than gravel, mud and potholes loosely connected by ribbons of tarmac — if we were lucky.

Directly behind him, I pick up speed and confidence as I acclimatize to the slip and slide of the bike. Cruising through slick mud and freshly formed rivers from the previous night’s storm.

Gathering speed on an uphill, the cliff side path veers left. The “road” is merely two deep, parallel trenches with a muddy bank between them.

Thang blasts through the right hand trench, closest to the cliff edge.

Bumps inward up the middle bank, and flicks his back tire around as he pulls out of the obstacle.

I kill off much of my speed from the uphill and follow his line.

Right hand trench.

“This is deeper than I anticipated….” flicks across my brain for a fraction of a second.

My back tire slides.

“Perhaps my 125cc semiauto bike isn’t as capable as our guide’s off-road monster”

Pull inwards.

Bike bounces up the bank, away from the cliff.

“Correct. Fuck. Correct. Fuck”

Back wheel flicks over the bank and into the left hand trench, knocking it’s side and directing me towards the cliff edge.

“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck”

I scramble to correct, leaning in left, pumping the breaks, knocking down the gears.

Existence shrinks down to a strobing set of images and gut punch emotional reactions.

Seconds stretch out. The edge hurtles towards me.

“FUCK. FUCK. FUCK.”….


Get ready for one of the most profound life lessons I’ve learned, wrapped up in a crazy story, wrapped up in a (hopefully) amusing highlight reel of my bike trip around North Vietnam.

The insanity of Hanoi was oppressive and overwhelming for many I’m traveling with. But I, I found the elevated discomfort in almost every aspect of my life exhilarating.

Want to cross the road?

Prepare to die.

Want to eat the food?

Prepare to die.

Want to converse with 99% of the population without pointing and hand gesturing?

Good. fucking. luck.

Hanoi’s streets are tight and sprawling, with countless thousands of people all living on top of each other.

Her roads a terrifying chaos of motorbikes beeping and sliding between each other.

Her smells flick and flutter from the rich aromas of garlic, galangal, and chili to the arresting kick of exhaust smog and sewage.

The magnitude of sensory overload is electric. The mounting discomfort makes my heart thump.

For me, being immersed to the neck in an uncomfortable situation leaves me awash with the taste of growth.

The opportunity to raise to the situation and conquer it. To fight and flow through it.

To come out on the other side a person I enjoy more today than I did yesterday.

So with the scene set, and your appetite for excitement hopefully piqued, let me share just some of the fun from my Vietnamese adventure.

Sunday: You sure we’re prepared for this?

After spending less than an hour learning how to actually drive a bike the previous day, Eddie, Tibor, Remy, Mark, John, Joe, myself and our guide Thang prepare to exit the mayhem of Hanoi and begin our adventure.

Thang, is a lunatic.

A tiny Vietnamese guy in his early twenties with an electric passion for off road driving.

He seems to mistake our excitement and eagerness, for an indication of driving ability when planning out our route.

He plans out the most beautiful (deadly) route he knows, and we head out into the moto-carnage that is downtown Hanoi.

We drive for 45 minutes and through a chorus of horn honks, and feverish mirror checks, we make it safely outside the greater city.

Safely that is, until another biker swerves in front of Mark.

He slams the beaks.

The bike doesn’t like it.

Mark bails, throwing the bike down and sliding.

His hand and arm are bloodied. The bike is functional. We bandage him up and 30 minutes later we’re off.

Lesson learned — assume everyone is an imbecile with a death wish.

We’re on the road again.

Perhaps 3 minutes pass.

A woman by the side of the road stands there with her bike, and then without warning decides to walk it into the road.

I slam the breaks.

The bike doesn’t like it.

I bail, throwing the bike down and sliding.

The woman that caused me to bail just looks at me on the floor, pinned under my bike and continues on walking…

Cheers.

My right arm, leg and ankle are bloodied. My bike is not functional. I laugh it off, get bandaged up and we grab lunch whilst we wait an hour for another bike.

Lesson ACTUALLY learned — assume everyone is an imbecile with a death wish.

Great start.

Onward we ride. I’m now vigilant of anyone anywhere near the road, giving them extra room for unexplained crazy.

When we finally break from Hanoi we’re greeted by wide open roads. We ride across a gorgeous expanse of planes, greeted by my first real sight of Asia’s arresting limestone mountains.

John Michael Eubank

After a couple of hours we pull up at a junction in a small town. Whilst we figure out which direction Thang took we’re treated by the sight of, in 8 or so pieces, a cooked dog…

Interesting…..

So interesting in fact, that John somehow thinks this would be a good image to send to our 50 person Whatsapp group message.

It was not.

Silly John.

We figure out where to go, and as darkness descends we head up into the mountains. And with that darkness, rumbles in a spectacular tropical thunderstorm.

The heavens open and inky blackness is blown away by blinding cracks. The sky glows as tendrils of lightning rip it apart. Thunderclaps are so seismic I can feel them shake through my body over the rumbling engine beneath me.

It’s an electrifying end to a exciting first day as we pull into Ba Be lake to settle down at our local homestay.

Monday: We’re really dumb…

Morning breaks and we’re up early. I now get a chance to see the prehistoric beauty of Ba Be lake.

We hop on a boat and spend an hour on the lake.

Calm and cool, surrounded by dense rainforest. Towering, monolithic, jungle covered cliffs press skywards as clouds tumble and pour between their valleys.

If a triceratops burst from the trees, chased by a hungry tyrannosaur, I’d not be the least bit surprised. It is haunting..

📸: @jobob2992

We get back, gear up, hop on our motors and start our ascent from the lake. As we wind back and fourth on thin, hairpin roads, the rest of the group pulls ahead of Joe and I.

I just can’t seem to get the hang of these tight corners.

I try to throw myself into them a little more, but I still continue to drift out to the other side of the road on my exit.

Not being instantly good at everything, frustrates me.

I give it another go and can’t seem to get my balance right for long enough. I pull around a particularly sharp hairpin and find myself quickly drifting out not only to the edge of the road, but the edge of a cliff.

“Shit. Think quick.”

I pump the breaks.

Still drifting…

I tighten my sphincter.

Still drifting….

“Ahhh, fuck.”

I slam the breaks and throw myself to the floor.

I scraping along exactly the same side, in exactly the same places as yesterday 😑

100% accurate. No drama…

Wounds torn open again, I laugh that I’m not dead, check the bike’s fine, and ride on.

First hour of the day appears to be my danger zone. I’m pissed that I can’t get the hang of it as quickly as I’d like, but I’m keen to rise to the challenge.

Remy hangs back for a bit and gives some pointers.

Trial by fire — I learn how to do tight corners properly.

I kind of hope I don’t need to learn everything about my bike this way…

Today we climb up and down kilometer high cliffs, stopping at the tops to view tropical forests below. The sun shimmering across them through slithers in the cloud cover.

📸 @marky_mark38

John is apparently so distracted by this beauty, he drives straight into a ditch.

Silly John.

But no, the carnage for the day is only just beginning.

As we scale up and down drenched mountain roads, it becomes apparent to me, perhaps most so due to my acute knowledge of exactly what our bikes CAN’T do, that these slick downhill sections are ludicrously risky.

We’re on a long downhill stretch, perhaps 35⁰, everyone is in sight. Thang and Joe overtake two cars before a tight right corner. This alone seems questionable to me, but Thang know’s his shit, so I assume all is fine.

What I don’t think they notice is the car that pulls around that corner as they lose sight of it to make the overtake.

Mark’s next up and also hasn’t seen this car. He attempts to follow.

I’m slamming my horn to alert him but he moves out to attempt the overtake.

He quickly realizes this isn’t going to work, and hits the breaks to pull back in.

Too hard.

His rear wheel starts to slide, and then it goes.

Mark’s down, sliding with his bike down this slick hill.

If the cars in front of him hit the beaks, Mark’s fucked.

Remy’s behind, he slams the breaks to avoid Mark.

Remy’s down.

If he slides out towards the oncoming traffic, Remy’s fucked.

He joins Mark sliding down the mountain road.

Eddie pulls up behind, slam his breaks, and send his bike careening into Tibor, leaving both of them on the floor..

“Well that fucking was dumb..”

We all agree, laugh that we’re alive, and head on our way.

2 days in, everyone has gone down.

Everyone, except Joe.

Tick. Tock.

We end in the bustling town of Cao Bang. Finishing up in the best way imaginable — with a couple glasses each of Vietnamese coffee.

A coffee delightfully different than any I’ve had before, so chocolaty, smooth, fruity.

Yep, it’s that good you’ll want it in the evening.

Gazing longingly at that black gold…

Tuesday: No words.

We head to the garage to grab our bikes and there’s a family down there with a couple of ducks…

The father proceeds to quickly butcher one, drain it’s blood, defeather it, and chop it up, in front of his child (I assume), in approximately 4 minutes…

It was an odd way to start the day 😶

We’re on the road for an hour or so before we pass a small dragon fruit farm, grab one for the road, and have a short lived “debate” on taking a safe route vs the most beautiful one.

Weird morning, weird fruit. 📸: @marky_mark38

Debate quickly over, we pull off the tarmac to a small dirt and gravel trail up into the hills, a hundred yards of so past the farm.

What we’ve seen so far has been entrancing yes, but it pales in comparison to today.

Today is the first day I’m actually lost for words. So baring this in mind, I’ll attempt to paint a picture.

With words.

That I was lost for.

We ascend the winding dirt path through the center of a small, lush valley. Intermittent showers give us ample time to stop, take on and off waterproofs, and drink in the slowly increasing grandeur of our surrounds.

At the third stop, the valley floor opens up and on a distant valley slope is a single, enormous tree above all the rest.

It looks like a painting. A bonsai, perfected over decades, scaled up and just popped right on the side of this valley.

My heart starts to thump.

“Yep, this is up there, maybe top 10 most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.”

That’s the tree! 📸: @marky_mark38

We take off around two more bends.

I slam the breaks on, lean back on my bike and..

“Holy fucking shit balls.”

“Seriously?”

My gaze is thrust hundreds of meters down into a verdant, sun rippled valley.

Millennia sealed in stone, rise up from its base to tower over me. I’m dwarfed.

A tiny ribbon of dirt snakes back and fourth, marking the path of my descent into Eden.

“Mmm, this is likely the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen.”

It takes a few minutes, but I catch my breath, quell my raging butterflies and begin my looping path to the valley floor.

The next hour is bliss.

The sound of the bike fades out and the wonder of my surroundings pours into my being.

The roads, too narrow and treacherous for anything larger than a bike, are completely ours.

The border between myself and my bike slowly start to evaporate.

Through dense forested fields, beneath the watch of the epic limestone, we twist and bob, up hills and through hairpins.

And all of a sudden.

The valley opens.

“Ughhhhhhh……”

My back tire screeches to a halt. Breath is savagely ripped from my lungs.

My soul is pierced. Shattered.

Primal majesty.

Wow…

A tsunami of splendor near knocks me from my seat.

The valley tears wide open. Vivid jade fields shoot out into the distance.

To the right, amber rice paddies, ready for harvest, dance upon terraces rising towards the heavens.

To the left, a waterfall explodes from the summit. An ephemeral rainbow shimmers in it’s spray.

The titanic cliffs made all the more striking against these softly rolling hills, and tiny dotted dwellings.

As the sunlight flutters and twirls across this vista I’m awash in ecstasy.

My heart aches. My fingers tingle.

Hell, I even shed a tear.

📸: @marky_mark38

 

Words don’t do it justice. Pictures don’t do it justice. Videos don’t do it justice.

This raw.

Emotional.

Gut punch, needs to be seen for even a slight appreciation of just how awe inspiring it feels.

If you get the chance to explore some of Asia’s off the beaten track countryside.

Fucking. Do It.

Anyway, I get my shit together and head on wards through the valley.

We run into some locals who direct us to a nearby waterfall and cave.

So off course he head off with them to check that out!

We find an awesome little waterfall, flowing from what we assume is the cave — something that can be seen into via a crack in the cliff, but not entered.

We go to walk off before we’re beckoned back by another local. He gets us to climb up the cliff with him over the waterfall, where we actually find the cave.

It’s a spectacular, alien world.

Like some eerie Lovecraftian cathedral.

Enormous limestone tendrils drip down from the ceiling.

Stalagmites line the floor like the fossilized teeth of some long dead behemoth.

Crystal clear lakes shoot off around submerged corners and corridors.

Apparently, with snorkels it’s possible to traverse a kilometer or two, coming up in another valley at another village!

Gives me chills, in the best way.

📸: @marky_mark38

We finish up the first day with the long ascent out of the valley.

It’s absolute bliss.

I take off by myself to enjoy the climb without having to start and stop for everyone else.

I really can see why people get so passionate about bikes.

There really is nothing between you and nature. You’ve got this amazing ability to reach difficult locations. With the twist of a key, you can be off your bike ready to silently drink in whichever gorgeous view has caught your eye.

And then there’s the feeling.

Oooof it feels good.

When you’ve been out for a few hours, the difference between you and the bike really just disappears. Everything becomes fluid.

Is gumming your brain up with too much testosterone a smart idea?

From experience, clearly not.

Are bikes whirring metal death machines?

Obv.

But, do I now understand why people love them?

Hell fucking yes.

Once again, I get the pleasure of finishing up the last hour of my day seeing the sky set ablaze in a crazy tropical storm as we arrive into Bao Lac.

Also!

Didn’t crash today.

Boom.

📸: @marky_mark38

Wednesday: It gets better.

Today we continue our journey towards the China boarder.

The jungle thins as we pass through lush mossy hills. The cliffs are very different now. Jet black,ominous, even more towering.

📸:@marky_mark38

A small passage opens at their base, and we pass across the floor of a narrow valley.

And then,

I’m no longer in Vietnam, I’ve ridden into Middle Earth, the gates of Mordor.

An enormous basin opens up before me.

A river and lake just below me.

Thang’s favorite road, the “Happy road”, hugs the side of the obsidian cliffs to the left, snaking it’s way up them through the clouds.

Today is every bit as awe inspiring as yesterday. Diametrically opposite, but equally arresting.

Again, I merge with my machine and take to ripping up the cliffs, bursting through the clouds, adrenaline sharpening every second into a tiny eternity.

Falling prohibited. 📸: @marky_mark38

After an amazing drive we arrive in the town of Dong Van. Thang takes the lead, and we follow, assuming he’s taking us to a hotel.

We pass through the town, down some small alley, and then start to climb a hill with an incline that is rapidly increasing.

I make no comment, blindly following Thang’s lead.

Turns out, he’s trying to take us and our bikes up to Don Cao, an old military fortress from France’s colonization days.

Up a 50–60⁰ incline!

Did I mention he was crazy..?

Most of our pathetic little bikes have no chance of making it.

Joe’s in front of me and on a gravel filled corner, tries to power up it and goes nowhere.

His bike starts sliding backwards, before falling on him, pinning him.

He’s not very pleased.

So we all immediately rush to his aid

Oh no wait, until this point, Joe was the only one of us not to crash.

So we stand above him and laugh for 2–3 minutes before offering to help.

Now he’s really not very pleased.

Silly Joe.

After sticking our bikes in first gear, leaving the throttle full, and walking them up, we manage to reach the top (still have no idea why we didn’t just walk up without them..)

And guess what?

The view’s mindbogglingly gorgeous.

We have a 360 of the whole area from hundreds of meters up.

Below us is Dong Van, with rice paddies extending down the valley floor left and right, as far as the eye can see.

Behind us are the formidable mountains that cloak China.

After soaking in the sights, we spend an eternity trying to get out bikes down the same incline — again, no idea why we took them up there, before reaching our hotel.

Another crash free day for me.

Boom.

We get freshened up and head down for a hot pot dinner — Thang’s favorite (favorite road, favorite dish, making Joe finally fall over, Thang had a good day).

As it’s my birthday tomorrow, it takes little time for the beers to escalate into several hours of rice wine, finding a massage place, befriending the guys that worked there, getting driven around in their bus/golf cart hybrid at 4am and other silliness…

📸: @marky_mark38

Thursday: It gets worse.

“Fak.”

I could feel better today, but it was an amusing birthday.

So, I pull myself together, and on wards we ride to Ha Giang.

It’s 10am on my 26th birthday. We’ve been on our bikes for 30 minutes.

The eight of us zip up and down the quarried slopes, our tracks flanked by sheer drops.

Thang tears ahead on his enormous dirt bike, easily conquering the “roads”.

Directly behind him, I pick up speed and confidence as I acclimatize to the slip and slide of the bike. Cruising through slick mud and freshly formed rivers from the previous nights storm.

Gathering speed on an uphill, the cliff side path veers left, the “road” is merely two deep, parallel trenches with a muddy bank between them.

Thang blasts through the right hand trench, closest to the cliff edge, bumps in up the middle banks and flicks his back tire around as he pulls out of the obstacle.

I kill off much of my speed from the uphill and follow his line.

Right hand trench.

“This is deeper than I anticipated….” flicks across my brain for a fraction of a second.

My back tire slides.

Next thought blast;

“Perhaps my 125cc semiauto bike isn’t as capable as our guide’s off-road monster”

Pull inwards.

Bike bounces up the bank, away from the cliff.

Back wheel flicks over the bank and into the left hand trench, knocking it’s side and directing me towards the cliff edge.

I scramble to correct, leaning in left, pumping the breaks, knocking down the gears.

Existence shrinks down to a strobing set of images and gut punch emotional reactions.

The edge hurtles towards me.

I’m airborne for a moment as I leave the road.

Everything is flashing.

Off I fly, 15 or so feet down a pile of boulders.

On the same, fucking, side 😑

.

.

.

Breathe in….

Breathe out….

.

I’m alive.

I can’t move. But, I don’t think I’m hurt.

“McCreesh….”

Mark half yells, half questions.

“Ha! I’m o-kAy!”

I holler back in what may have been an Italian accent..

Mark now starts a laugh that lasts the best part of three days.

An uncontrollable laugh that pretty much prevents him from talking to me, as every time he sees my dumb face, he imagines me flailing off that cliff….

Ten to fifteen locals seem to emerge from the bushes and before I know it, my bike is being picked off me, and we’re all pushing it back up the side of the cliff.

Ironically, one of them is wearing a tshirt with the emblazoned slogan:

“Shit Happens”

Brilliant..

Video starts about half way up 😑 📸: @where_is_remy

By the time I get to the top, Thang has cycled back and he and Joe are incredibly perplexed by just how cheery I am.

“You keep almost dying… Why are you not a trembling mess?”

Asks Joe.

“I no understand. You crazy”

Says Thang, who we’ve established, is actually crazy.

And here we come to the profound lesson….

There’s no point holding on to the negative emotion that your mind at first wants to thrust upon you.

It eats into you.

The lesson from this incident is; be WAY more fucking alert in the first hour of riding. I know it’s the danger zone.

My emotional response of laughter vs terror is largely irrelevant to me learning that.

Laughter is more enjoyable, so I chose that.

It wasn’t until this incident that I realized just how pervasive this mindset change had been in shaping my life.

As soon as the epiphany hits, example after example, going back the best part of a decade, flood into my mind.

  • You’re pushed into a swimming pool, destroying your phone. Irritation and anger become laughter and acceptance. Tears won’t fix the phone.
  • Someone has an opinion you find distasteful, idiotic or abhorrent. Frustration and anger become curiosity. You won’t convince anyone by telling them how wrong they are. May as well be interested in how they’ve arrived at the opinions they have. Great way not to hate everyone.
  • You and your friends are brutally assaultedBlind rage and panic become sharp focus. Anger exacerbates angry situations. Much more important to defuse and protect.
  • A stranger insults you. Upset and irritation become pitied amusement.Snap judgement and pigeon holing based on surface or extraneous characteristics is narrow minded. Do this robs them of beauty held in the depths of others. Their stories.

My oldest example of this response rewiring wasn’t clear to me until the end of my month in Vietnam, at our farewell event.

Roughly thirty of us are at an eco-lodge, retreat outside the city. We are all sat in a room discussing failure, and what it means to us. The question is posed:

“What does failure mean to you?”

I run the question through my mind, puzzled as I let it percolate around my brain.

“Not being able to meet the expectations of my parents.”

“Not being able to buy a house”

“Not achieving my career goals”

These are just a few of the answers offered up.

And for me? I let this question burrow deep into me.

I really, really strain to come to my answer.

And…

Absolutely. NOTHING.

It’s not that I don’t understand the question. Or that I couldn’t think of what failure meant to me.

It’s that failure has COMPLETELY ceased to hold meaning as a concept to me.

There is a technique to achieve this, and it’s equally as powerful for you to completely sever a tie between an action and the emotion you respond with.

This may seem different the previously mentioned examples, but I assure you it’s the same mechanism.

Here’s are the steps to change your emotional response to a negative situation:

1. Identify the trigger and your normal emotional response. For example, the normal emotional response to failure is to be humiliated, upset, embarrassed, dejected, perhaps to give up. Often the fear of these results may prevent you from putting yourself out there in the first place.

2. Think about what this trigger actually means. What does it actually mean to fail at your goal? Will you be homeless? Will you starve to death? Is there no route to repair the damage that failure does?

Often failures will lead to some personal or professional discomfort, but rarely are they the end of the world. Our minds like to overemphasis fears into unconquerable monstrosities, regardless of how true that may be.

3. Focus on embodying the emotion or persona that will pull you through the reality of the situation. In the case of failure, it’s something that happens for an instant. You then have the choice of how long you carry it’s emotional baggage around. The longer you carry that baggage, the longer you waste not trying to achieve your goal in another way, or not trying to repair any damage done by the failure.

When I was perhaps 16, I just decided that “I would be successful”. It was that simple.

I then started telling that to everyone I knew, regardless or not of if I believed it. Saying it created a persona that I tried to live up to, creating a sort of self fulfilling prophecy.

Over years, more and more people started to attach that characteristic to me. Over yet more years, I actually internalized this message so deeply that I started to believe it myself.

If I was going to be successful, than failure was only temporary. There was thus no point dwelling on failures (or fuck ups as I now call them). It was just wasting time. Time I should be spending towards the future “successful” me.

4. When the trigger happens, practice your embodiment. It won’t just magically work, so give yourself time to experience your normal emotions. But not for too long. Give yourself a time limit, then pick yourself up and focus on your embodiment.

If you fail; kick and scream a bit, pick yourself up, and get back to moving forward. You can’t change the past, so don’t live there.

5. Practice this! You won’t just magically change your response. It takes time. It takes patience. You really need to be considered with it.

It took me years to internalize, and be convinced by my “I will be successful”message through exclaiming it to everyone that I met.

It may have taken me years longer to completely sever my connection to my concept of failure.

But!

When you do manage to do this, you’ll realize that the neural muscle (so to speak) that you’re training, isn’t unique to your one example!

After I’d practiced swapping out wallowing in failure, or fear of doing so, it was easy to swap all of the negative responses I bullet pointed above.

Once you do this once, you can apply it to a vast amount of problems you face. In quick succession you can unburden your mind from a multitude of fears, worries and imagined pressures.

It feel amazingly liberating to:

  • Not get annoyed, angry, worried etc. about situations you cannot change, past, present or future.
  • Not care about things that are of no consequence to you or others, for example, what strangers think of you.

Back to the bikes!

Anyway, for those more interested in travel than becoming all zen, lets wrap up the rest of the bike trip 😅

So, I’m alive, bike’s fine, off we go.

Thang, thinks the roads we’ve been on so far as too good, so he decides to take up over a mountain on an road that’s mid construction.

We are literally driving over piles of boulders, on piece of shit bikes.

📸: John Michael Eubank and @marky_mark38

Joe crashes twice more.

Lol…..

They were both VERY slow so he was okay, but he was irritated for a long time none the less.

Emotional responses 😉

Today the scenery was, you guessed it, breath taking!

The black cliffs make way for rolling green fields and alpine forests.

It reminds me very much of Britain, if the landscape were vertically stretched to give hills four times the height.

Just how far the hills stretch from valley base to summit evokes thoughts of gargantuan Sci Fi O’Neal cylinders. Massive cylindrical spacecraft, rotating along their long axis to create spin gravity and leading to landscapes that reach up the insides of the cylinder, before looping back over your head.

📸: @marky_mark38 & kromekat.com

We finish up at a homestay outside Ha Giang, trekking through fireflies to a secluded waterfall where we all go swimming.

And by we all, I don’t mean me. I’m covered in holes as I insist on testing my apparent inability to break myself…

Adorably, the homestay owners have gotten me a birthday cake with my freaking name on it! 😍

It’s beyond lovely, so we finish our delicious dinner and cake desert, and turn in early.

📸: John Michael Eubank and @marky_mark38

Friday: Once more, just for fun.

By this point, I’ve had more than enough of crashing.

We cruise over a mountain range covered in dense jungle.

Tight valleys and magic waterfalls are around every turn.

📸: @marky_mark38

We pass over the mountains, and come towards to a small town for lunch.

I hear a tire screech (the sound of which still sends shivers down my spine to this day).

I look forward to Mark.

I see his tire skid out a little before he recovers it. I figure that’s what the sound was from.

It doesn’t take me long to see that I was wrong.

All though I’ve had enough of crashing, Remy, it seems, has not.

He tears through a dusty corner ahead of me, underestimating how sharp it is.

His front wheel locks up and he proceeds to superman over the handlebars.

Onto his face.

Ouch.

He laughs it off, despite missing half a tooth, and with a few big gashes. We head over to a conveniently placed hospital in the nearby town to get him stitched up.

We grab food, wait for Remy, and we head on our way.

After the descent, we follow a river on a (surprisingly good) road that hugs the bottom of a steep valley.

Another treat awaits….

We’ve seen lots of rice paddies so far, but none overlaid on such mesmerizing gradients, and few quite so close up.

Terraces stack hundreds of meters up. The landscape takes on an enchanting blend of man made and natural. Unharvested rice grass dances with a prismatic shimmer. Orange, yellow and green pulsate and wave in the breeze.

Interestingly, The strange geometry transports me to Minecraft. Are we in a simulation? 😏

📸: @marky_mark38

A darkness closes in, we arrive in Xin Man, a sooty mining town with not a second thought given to tourist catering.

This is real industrial Vietnam.

And tucked in it’s dilapidated streets is the best food I ate in my entire time in Vietnam! Thang, as always, has full reign to pick what we eat, and really outshines himself this time.

Vietnam doesn’t appear to have a massive range of signature dishes: Pho, bahn mi, bun cha, spring rolls, omlette, stir fry meat and rice are likely to make up the majority of what you eat here.

But what this does mean, is you can really find some exquisite variations on these if you search hard enough.

We grab a big assortment of dishes from a tiny family diner. Never before have I tried such a transcendental omelette! The spring rolls are mouthwatering. The soy sauce is the most deep and delicate I’ve ever experienced.

And the coffee…

Ohhh my…

This was the best Vietnamese coffee I’ve ever had. Which is in itself the best coffee I’ve ever had.

I want to fly across the globe to this (arguably) dirty nowhere just for this coffee again.

Also!

A random stray rottweiler bites Mark on the ass for no apparent reason 😂

It was funny.

For me.

He didn’t seem to think as much…

Saturday: A chipper red head.

Today brings our trip to an end. We head out for our last full day ride towards the town of Sa Pa, located to the North West on a high plateau.

On our way we have yet another captivating mountain ascent. As we head up to higher altitudes again, the jungle makes way for more alpine trees and scrub.

The transitions are striking, and hard to communicate visually. The rich smell of pine resin fills the air. The humidity dissipates.

It feels like another continent.

Atop one of the highest peaks I stop for a brooding picture.

As does everyone else 😆….

📸: @marky_mark38

Heading down the mountain, the steep road quickly turns into a muddy river.

It’s pretty damn slippery, as Eddie finds out.

We’re all stopped waiting as bikes pass one by one through a slick, thin passage caused by a landslide.

Eddie pulls up behind me and pushes his breaks lightly.

His wheels stop moving.

His bike does not.

Impressively, as the bike slides and goes down, he steps off it onto his feet as if nothing happened.

Joe, isn’t so lucky..

Whilst traversing the passage, his bike isn’t playing ball.

Without the space to hop off, he falls into the landslide, which is just an enormous pile of mud 😑

Poor Joe.

The upside — he seems way more chipper this time!

Perhaps all of our laughing in the face of near imminent death is rubbing off on him…

At the bottom of the mudslide we reach a bustling rural market, full of all manner of occult trinkets and exotic(risky) foods.

I grab some assorted goods on sticks. Chicken feet (not good). Mushrooms (not good). Pink mystery balls (you guessed it).

To left I can be seen donning a voguish armored jacket. Thang insisted after, you know, I drove off a cliff…. 📸: @marky_mark38

The exit from the market marks our last stretch as Vietnam’s rice paddy game is upped once more.

Over the next mountain we are treated to another massive expanse of wide open valleys and peaks. This time littered with hundreds of golden rice terraces ready for harvest.

And that’s not all.

For one of the few times during the trip, we are treated to..

GOOD FUCKING ROADS!

We get like two hours riding without constantly dipping and swerving to avoid potholes. What a treat.

That is until we’re about an hour out from Sa Pa…

Then it’s not the roads that are the issue, but the ludicrous amount of semi trucks that seem to be heading up the steep roads to the plateau town.

Bumper to bumper traffic. Bikes darting in and out. Crazy overtakes needed to get past two or three semis at a time. It’s pandemonium. And also really quite fun 😆

📸: @marky_mark38

We arrive in Sa Pa early evening and head out for too many cocktails to celebrate, not dying? Before heading to Lao Cai to catch the overnight train back the following day.

Would I recommend it?

I’m not convinced if this is an endorsement for a Vietnam bike trip or not. On the one hand, I have NO FUCKING IDEA how none of us were severely injured.

We crashed a LOT.

On the other hand, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The pictures and my description barely scratch the surface. It was natural splendor, exhilaration and wonder that likes of which I’ve never felt.

Enrapturing, visceral beauty.

Personally, I would do it again at the drop of a hat.

You made to the end, WOW!

Thank you so much.

I’m currently putting much more focus on my writing, so if you enjoyed this in any way, then sharing this with interested friends, or in relevant locations, would be truly mean so much to me.

I’m getting a lot of enjoyment from people’s thoughts and feedback on my writing, so the more that see it, there more I get to experience that.

Thanks again ❤️

Yo, I’m Connor!

I’m a smart person. I don’t do smart things.

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When Assault, Robbery and Destruction of Property are Perfectly Legal

When Assault, Robbery and Destruction of Property are Perfectly Legal

When Assault, Robbery and Destruction of Property are Perfectly Legal

Mad Dogs in Lisbon

Originally posted August 2017.

UPDATE: Awesome news! Turns out this club was shut down, and several security members arrested after this story and another assault video went viral. Good job everyone.

This post covers one of the most shocking, vicious acts of senseless, unprovoked violence I’ve ever witnessed. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so powerless. The mental scars of the incident are still fresh, weeks after it occurred.

Apologies in advance, this post is likely to be a little less lighthearted than usual, but I hope it helps provoke action to prevent this happening again. This isn’t a one off incident, it’s happening at the same place in Lisbon nearly every week. Some time soon it may not be a case of rabid, group assault, but manslaughter. This is why I write this post.


It’s a normal Friday night in Lisbon. I’ve been working late and joined up with about 10 friends an hour ago. It’s approximately 2 am and we’re out looking for somewhere to go dancing (Dina needs to dance!).

The previous night I’d discovered K Urban Beach Bar with a beautiful girl from Boston(who’s white, apparently this was important). It’s quite a sight, with pillars of light all across the sand, and a long wooden walkway to the entrance. A cool, seeming chill place to dance into the early hours. Thinking nothing of it, I recommend we go there and we make the 15–20 minute walk over from Pink Street to the bar.

Doesn’t it look pretty? (Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhart)

I’m first in line to get into the club, and I’m greeted by a member of security who asks:

“How many of there are you?”.

“About 10?”

“Sorry, it’s a private party, you have to go”.

Right, okay. So ignoring the fact that we weren’t asked for our names for the “private party” list, and how oddly the amount of us determines whether we can enter, I decide it’s not worth saying any more and decide to leave with the two people behind me.

I’ve dealt with security on a power trip far too many times, there’s very little to be done and it’s not worth any provocation.

I walk past my friends behind me and say “We’re not getting in, lets just go to the club we passed on the way here”

I wrongly assumed the tone of this conveyed the situation, and about a third of the way down the walkway away from the club, I look back and see my friends standing there for a second before people start getting pushed.

Tick,

Tick,

Tick.

Time slows to a crawl. Body’s sway back and fourth.

My heart drops, adrenaline explodes into my system. But this isn’t a cause for rage or madness on my behalf. This is a feeling I’m intimately familiar with. An otherworldly sharpness washes over me.

I’m expecting security to drag a few friends out.

I’m expecting to calm screaming friends.

I’m expecting to be a cool voice of reason in a heated situation.

And then it happens…

Eddie (who’s Colombian) is sucker punched by one of 5 members of “security” as he turns to face the people behind him. He goes down.

I start to jog towards the quickly erupting chaos.

Kyle takes a hook to the side of the head. He goes down. Mark is punched and rocked.

But the worst is yet to come.

Kib (who’s Kenyan) takes a roundhouse kick to the face.

He looks like he’s stepped on a bomb.

He stumbles for another second as I start to run towards him.

He glances around, trying to understand what’s happened, glances towards me, and takes a full force punch to the chin.

He’s out cold on his feet, and doesn’t remain there for long.

I’m now full charge, yell “GET BACK!” to Taryn who’s screaming, and I dive on Kib to soak up any further barrages.

He’s laying on his back, eyes glazed, with a swarm of 10 “security”, no, 10 mad dogs; sober, coordinated, clearly trained to fight by that head kick.

Encircling him.

Screaming at him.

I roll him into a recovery position and reassure him that it’s okay, we’re not moving until he’s ready and that they’re not going to hit him any more.

And they keep screaming and screaming.

“Get him the fuck out!”

“We can’t get people in, get him out of the way!”

You see, they’d knocked him out at the front of the queue to the club.

Perhaps if they were concerned about getting people into the club, they shouldn’t have done that?

Then the first big test begins.

I’m on the floor, trying my best to stay zen as fuck, and not only have I got friends in the vicinity screaming in fear and anger, I have a swarm of screaming savages surrounding me and my barely conscious friend.

These subhumans proceed to swoop past us, pushing us with their feet and throwing bottles of water in Kib’s face to try jolt him awake.

I don’t want to move Kib until he feels sturdy enough to, but they’re screaming at me to get him out.

Every time that water is thrown in his face, I’m a hairs width away from exploding with white hot rage.

Unbridled, crotch shot, beating to a pulp, eye gouging fury.

I’ve never felt, and contained such anger.

But I knew that was exactly what these degenerates were looking for. There were 10 of them, just begging for an excuse to really jump in and stomp someone to a coma.

By the third lot of water thrown in his face, I knew I couldn’t take another.

I had to get him out. I yelled to Mark, and we threw one of Kib’s arms over each of our shoulders and carried him out.

We sit him down on a wall at the end of the walkway, and I run back over to make sure all of our friends have gotten back.

As I get towards the bar again, I notice Adi, who’s roughly 5”5’ and can’t be more than 120 lbs, is recording what’s happened, and the bouncer that threw the first pot shot is marching towards her.

He grabs her phone, hits her and throws her phone in the water, before marching off into the bar again.

Not realizing that he’s thrown her phone, I think he’s just taken in.

Perhaps stupidly, I walk towards another bouncer (that I’ve not seen frenziedly attacking people), and very reasonably ask if we can get her phone back.

We’ve all just been attacked, it’s the least they can do, right. I’m ignored.

Adi, who’s understandably unhappy about her phone, is yelling towards the one who hit her and walked off.

Another bouncer is marching toward her.

She’s not getting fucking hit again.

I step in front and say we should go.

I start getting pushed and I’m walking backwards along the walk. I’ve got my hands in the air saying we’re going.

One punch.

“Why are you punching me?”

Two.

“I’m leaving, why are you punching me?”

Three.

“Stop punching me 😑”

Four.

“Stop punching me 😠”

This was my second big test.

Eating four punches with my hands in the air sparks another tsunami of adrenaline.

He stops, I’ve walked the entire length of the walkway getting punched.

Once more, I’m a hairs-width from erupting with blind rage.

I turn around and Kib’s on the floor.

Three fucking savages have run past me whilst I was distracted by getting punched in the face, and have decided to choke out a still disoriented Kib, and then proceed to punch and kick him on the floor whilst he was unconscious.

I charge over yelling and get in the way. This time they dissipate and walk back to the bar, for the final time.

We call the police and an ambulance. Kib and Kyle go for a check up to make sure they’re okay.

I talk through with the police and not only find out that this happens regularly, but that there’s sweet fuck all they can do about it.

The court process takes 6–12 months to happen, and tourists very rarely have that time.

These monsters are able to do this once or twice a weekend.

The police, the Uber drivers, the online reviews all reflect this. And nothing is done about it.


But you could have just been drunk and boisterous, and not mentioning that?

Some of us had been drinking more than others.

Eddie also offered to pay the €250 per person price they jacked the entry fare up to, when essentially telling people to piss off.

Perhaps that was provocative.

But perhaps there’s more here…

Kyle posted this picture of his face to his Instagram after the event:

@mynameiskyleokay

He tagged K Urban Beach Bar in the picture and the next weekend someone messaged him with a story exactly the same as ours.

Coincidence?

Let’s look at Tripadvisor and Google Reviews:

Lol, couldn’t help myself

So yeah, an out of the blue, apparently race driven attack, is something you can expect to see at K Urban Beach Bar. If you’re lucky enough, you may even be a part of one!

So why am I writing this shit if nothing will get done?

  1. If I can stop someone visiting this club, and potentially getting assaulted and killed, that’s my number one.
  2. To highlight what seems to be a massive race problem, not just at this bar but at many in Lisbon.
  3. It may be cathartic for me to write out.
  4. I have a troubled background, mixed up with lots of fighting, so perhaps this helps you understand more about me.

Hopefully the bulk of this post and the reviews have gone some way towards ticking off the first two points. The third is TBD when I finish this, at the moment it’s pretty stressful.

So the fourth point..

I want to do a little more to convey how difficult this is to write.

I’ve been an angry person before, and I moved past that. But reliving this in intimate detail has adrenaline raging through my system.

My largest issue is that I’ve got a past deeply intertwined with fighting.

Since the age of 8, and until my early twenties, fighting had been a regular go-to for resolving issues with those that wanted to bully or push around me, my family or my friends.

As I got older, this was often tied to drinking (not because I would start fights, but because I’d be around drunk people that had something to prove).

This actually got to the point where I had to chose to stop drinking, for almost a year whilst I was 22 to sort my shit out. I needed to stop resorting to violence when it was such an easily presented option.

So what’s my point?

Well, 10–15 years of getting in 50–100 fights, combined with 4 years of MMA training 5–10 hours a week, have actually made me very good at it.

And that’s a problem.

As I relive this experience, my mind keeps racing back to elaborate vision of attacking back.

There are few things that make my blood boil like bullies, and I cannot deny the sense of satisfaction I would feel to really hurt those scumbags, and use their own language to show them they can’t just go around mass assaulting people without repercussion.

Again, I’ve been an angry person, and I don’t want to be one again.

So along with the appalling injustice of this event, there’s an issue that is really sticking with me.

I’m pissed that these arseholes keep dragging my mind back to anger.

Post Traumatic Stress

I keep experiencing PTS which manifests as moments of white hot rage towards them.

I wake up in the middle of the night, and within seconds my brain returns to the event.

Adrenaline floods my system and now, because of them, I’m stuck awake for at least the next 45 minutes.

I wake up in the morning, I’m happy, I jump in the shower and my mind wonders back, and I’m angry again.

I keep cycling through the night, where instead of standing there getting punched in the face, I lose it and knock some cunts out.

I keep running through elaborate revenge fantasies.

That pisses me off.

They’ve made me angry, and they don’t give a fuck, this is just what they do for fun.

A few days after this was at the Aquarium (my happy place), grabbed my tickets and went to enter.

There’s a very friends security guy there just checking people have their tickets.

My stomach twists and I feel a strange unease.

These fucking bastards have rooted a subconscious worry within me.

That pisses me off.

I loved Lisbon until that happened, and now I don’t, and I know that they’re not representative of many in Lisbon, but still, it’s affected me.

That pisses me off.

And I’m not the only one. At least four other friends that where there have told me they’ve had post traumatic stress, manifesting as uncontrolled crying, rage fantasies, dark thoughts, or wanting to just scream all the time.

But I’m Happy 😁

Anyway, despite occasional flashes of rage, I couldn’t be more happy about how I handled this.

I stayed calm and collected during the whole ordeal.

I believe I prevented several friends getting hurt more severely.

I resisted the unspeakably strong urge to knock some cunts out — there were too many of them, and putting down 2 or 3 of them would have been just the excuse the others were looking for to jump me, and hurt / kill my friends.

It’s funny, a week or so before, I’d looked after a close friend who’d arguably gotten too drunk after dealing with some really shitty news.

I happily put aside whatever I was doing to make sure she was okay for a few hours. And after that, a couple of people said something along these lines to me:

“You’re the most patient man I’ve ever met”

Fuck.

No.

I could look after a friend in need all day for a week and not have my patience exhausted.

But this ordeal, this fucking pushed me.

This really ran out my patience.

I’m so rarely tested to that extent. Tempted to lash out and controlling myself not to, even in the face of such a heated, unjust, dangerous situation.


Anyway, if you want to do something amazing to try and prevent this from happening again, please consider sharing it with your friends, especially those living in, or with connections in Portugal.

If you want to boost it on Medium, whack that claps button 5–10 times.

I honestly do worry that someone will be killed by these mad dogs, and as nothing is going to happen legally speaking, I figure the most I can do is put this out there.

Perhaps it’s seen by people that would otherwise visit this club, and they reconsider.

Well this has been pretty morbid to write. If you want your spirits lifted, try watch this dude control like 20 pets. It made me cry (in the best way).

Yo, I’m Connor!

I’m a smart person. I don’t do smart things.

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How to Live the Life of Your Dreams in 6 Months, Not 6 Years.

Why Sacrifice Today to “Live” Later, is Bullshit.

Live the life of your dreams in 6 months, not 6 years.

Originally published May 2017.

“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”

This is something I hear thrown around a lot, and whilst I get the sentiment, I think the way it’s being acted upon is complete bullshit for 99% of entrepreneurs.

I’ve recently seen posts by several successful entrepreneurs that I know and respect in this vein, and I’m worried it’s being taken in the wrong way.

Post suggesting that you should skip out on all sorts of fulfilling opportunities and experiences to spend 14+ hours a day, every day, grinding to achieve massive success.

That you should abandon years now to live life on your own terms in the future.

Sounds like it makes sense, right?

The problem is, most young entrepreneurs that I speak to just don’t need to do this to achieve what they want.

If you want to achieve some massive, world-changing goal, then yeah, you’re likely to need to sink away at least the next 5–7 years of your life to have a chance.

Want to build a billion dollar business?

Say goodbye to (at least) your 20s to even have a shot!

But!

Most young entrepreneurs don’t want this.

Most want to take control of their lives, and have the freedom to do what they want, on their own terms.

Guess what, to do this you “just” need a business that generates ~$100k per year, can be managed from your laptop, and has some degree of automation (to the point where you could automate it or have someone look after it for a week or so without it falling to pieces.)

Whilst that may sound like a big ask, in today’s social media dominated world, it really isn’t.

If you spent the next 6–12 months focusing in the right areas — building a community on a / a few social networks, and finding something that community wants to buy (you can often straight up ask them to find this out), you can have this success.

You can have a business that allows you to travel, work the hours you want, not have a boss, and have enough money to do almost anything you want.

Do you need a Lamborghini, or do you just want to smash one on a track for a few hours a month?

Do you need to buy a mansion, or would you scratch that itch just renting one for a few months?

Want to completely revamp your wardrobe with designer gear? $5k is likely to leave you looking very sharp.

I think lots of people want to be rich for the sake of being rich.

But when it come to it, it’s what you actually do with the money that gives fulfillment for most people.

Most of what you want to do likely isn’t that expensive (or doesn’t need to be).

The reason I want to push this point is that many of the successful entrepreneurs I know that are suggesting this, are also having a bucket load of fun at the same time.

Yeah they’re working hard, but they’re also having fun.

They’re travelling, they’re finding out what areas of their business they find fulfilling, they’re focusing on that, and handing off everything else to partners / employees etc.

This doesn’t always come across in the “you need to be grinding everyday, not sleeping, not seeing friends, not playing Tinder, if you want to succeed” posts.

However, this isn’t the biggest potential tragedy I want to mention!

Do you know one of the few things that millions can’t buy you?

Your 20s back.

I’ve been in the position where I thought I wanted to run a startup that would monetize user data (here). A startup that would need several rounds of investment and to hire dozens of employees if it were ever to make money.

I thought I wanted to build up this startup to sell it 7–10 years down the line for enough money to invest into creating a big, world-changing business, ala Mr Musk.

I spent two and a half years of my life working on this startup before having the striking realization (looking out over the Bangalore skyline in India, perhaps I “found myself”), that whilst I still want to create some awesome science business, that I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my youth to do so.

Yeah I want to do something awesome, but I also want to experience the world whilst I still have all of the freedoms to do so!

I’ll be straight up, I want to have kids at some point.

I think it’s an integral part of human existence — it’s literally what we’re built for.

Do I want kids now?

But at some point?

Yeah, I think it would be awesome.

With that said, I’m acutely aware that the longer you wait to have children, the higher the chance of them getting various defects due to the natural accumulation of DNA damage you and your partner get as you age (yep, guys also, take a peak at the latest literature).

Do I want mutant kids?

Not if I can help it.

So this means that it’s likely a good idea to have kids before your mid thirties if possible.

See any problems here?

What if you squirrel your 20s away working on a business 24/7 and you manage to pull it off and exit it for these millions you think you want. You’re likely to be in your early 30s by that point.

Well guess what, the magical life of travelling the world and having ALL THE FUN is now only an option for a year or two.

Off course this makes loads of assumptions and there are lots of exceptions, but this isn’t a post about having kids, it’s a post to try and make a point.

Anyway, point that I’m trying to make is:

I don’t think you should put off living the life you want for 5–10 years because circumstances change, you can’t buy back your youth, and you can likely have everything you want much sooner than you think.

Let me know your thoughts on this.

And join me for ALL THE FUN after you have!

Yo, I’m Connor!

I’m a smart person. I don’t do smart things.

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Why Your Planning is Destroying Your Business

Why Your Planning is Destroying Your Business

Perfectionism is Destroying Your Business

Planning is the enemy of action

Originally published May 2017.

This is something I feel quite strongly about, and it’s something that’s incredibly difficult to overcome, because it goes against every instinct that I have.

I’m a perfectionist, or at least I was.

Something that every entrepreneur is familiar with, is that taking action is incredibly important. However, I really cannot stress that just knowing this, and doing this, are two very different things, and you’re not doing this!

Let me set the scene..


It’s 2013, I’m studying at Birmingham University and running its entrepreneur society. I’ve just finished running an event series with my friend Peter Bidewell, designed to take prospective entrepreneurs and walk them through the steps they need to create their own businesses (somewhat successfully I may add, as this course leads to the formation of 13 new businesses, some of which are still operating today).

Based on the success of this course, Pete and I decideto take the process we’ve been working on during these events, and form them into an online entrepreneur course.

Version 1

We get to work furiously figuring out every stage of our business, how the course will best work, how to market it, our brand strategy, legalities etc.

We plan out all of the content we need to launch, get some funding for equipment and start producing video lessons ourselves.

If you want a giggle, here’s one of the videos (but also, this has 1,400 views. Damn son):

Ooo dem jump cutz

Fast forward a few months — we hit a roadblock — we’ve taught the content to these students based partly on our own experience and partly from the advice sourced online. Our credibility in teaching this course has come because:

  1. We run a student entrepreneur society and so students assumed we know our shit.
  2. We’ve each had our own minor small business success, which compared to someone that knows nothing about running their own business, does to some extent mean we knew our shit.

But the Internet is different.

Why will anyone believe we knew what we are on about?

What right have we got to teach about business areas that we’ve never had to deal with?

Okay, back to the drawing board.

Version 2

We’d decide that as we have decent entrepreneurial networks, we will crowdsource video lessons from other entrepreneurs to fill in the gaps in our knowledge. Battle plan V2 done and we started contacting our networks and have loads of them agree to make short 5 minute videos for us.

Amazing.

This was it, we’re ready for the big time.

Fast forward a fair few months — we’ve managed to get about 10 videos recorded of ourselves and maybe 2–3 videos from other entrepreneurs. Getting people to be free for an hour, and to prep a lesson, and to deliver that lesson on camera professionally, and to spend a week meticulously editing 1 hour of video mistakes to a 5 minute cut, isn’t that easy….

Back to the drawing board…

Fast forward another fair few months — we’ve figured out that an easier way to get content is just to compile, sort and add to the best of the best that is already out there (our first good idea?).

The new problem this creates is that if we wanted to create video lessons from the best content out there — much of it on Youtube, we couldn’t charge for the service.

Version 3

Empire planning mode — we’ve planned out an MVP, version 1, 2 and 3 of the website. We will need investors and employees to scale up to loads of users so we can monetize their data.

Attention, world domination commencing..

So we get to work and we finally, about 2 years after starting this idea, build out a “minimum viable product” — we’ve read the lean startup, we knew what we are doing 😉…

Fast forward another few months (October 2015), we’re finally ready to start marketing the product to get our initial users.

I’m on an entrepreneurs trip in India.

I’m sat by the pool on top of some huge hotel in Bangalore, listening to the Tim Ferris podcast and he’s talking about how he’s stopped investing in startups because keeping on top of it had become something he didn’t enjoy.

That the potential money down the line just wasn’t worth the stress and loss of his time now.

Ahhh fuck.

It hits me. Despite all of my lofty ambitions to follow in Mr Musks footsteps, selling a large business for cash to push into some save the world business, I’m not willing to pay this price.

I don’t want a startup that needs investment.

I don’t want a startup that needs at least 50 employees.

I don’t want a startup that I have to sink at LEAST the next 7 years of my life into, in order for it to have a CHANCE at success.

And with that, the business is dead in the water.

We have ZERO to show for two and a half year of work on the business..

That’s not to say that it has been a waste of time, off course it’s been useful, but it hasn’t actually result in anything tangible.

Even though this sounds like I was made obvious mistakes, it’s a story that I know many, many entrepreneurs are closely imitating.

So let’s blow apart everything past Connor did, that I’d now consider “dumb shit”:

Starting with unique content.

This is something that it took us a few years to figure out, but trying to produce all of the content yourself, or trying to convince others to produce content for you, with no driving force, is just punishing.

Had we decided to curate great content from others from the start, we could have gotten the ball rolling much faster.

That doesn’t mean you should never create unique content. Unique content off course has much higher value. But curating content is much much faster, and still holds value. Start there first.

Needing credibility.

I fucking hate this! So many people are paralyzed into inaction through fear of not being credible enough to have an opinion on a subject.

Do some people care about your credibility?

Yeah.

Will some of them call you up on it?

Perhaps.

But there are SO MANY PEOPLE THAT DON’T CARE. Stop convincing yourself otherwise.

Put yourself out there. Your experience gives you credibility to those a few steps behind you, and you only being a few steps in front can give you a closer connection to that audience.

Needing a full business course before launching.

People do this in all aspects of business, no matter how small.

Want to launch a blog? What if you’ve only got one piece of content? Best put it off until you have more pieces (never).

Off course there is some logical sense to this.

Will more people like your blog if there’s a good amount to read on it?

Yeah.

But putting something out there now “starts” your blog, putting pressure on you to actually make time for more content, and secondly — SOME people will like your one article, do it for them.

The real reason you think you need all the content before launching is because you’re scared!

Scared that people won’t like it or will make fun of you and call you nasty Internet names.

Stop being a little bitch.

Launch what you have. Right now 😑

Planning now will save time later.

I really hate planning, but only because I now know I’ve wasted soooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much time doing it.

Planning is over rated!

You’re not saving time, you’re scared and putting off taking action. Straight up.

When you launch NOW, your focus comes straight into whatever you’ve launched.

When it’s live you need to work to keep it alive and for it to grow. You will read around the subject and know which information is useful and actionable right now, because you are live.

You will make time when it’s live, which massively outweighs this imaginary “saved time” from all the planning.

You need to make time, because if you don’t you will have wasted the time you’ve actually put into it.

Guess what, people hate losing way more than they like winning.

It’s human psychology (loss aversion).

You will work much harder to stop yourself losing the time you’ve invested, than you will to gain more imaginary saved time later.

Not building an audience first.

What if, instead of spending 2 years trying to build the “perfect” product to help people become entrepreneurs, we’d just built an audience of entrepreneurs…

A place where they could find and share the most helpful information they’d found.

Well I’d actually have finished that two(+) years with something to build a business with.

A business that could fit the lifestyle I really wanted.

Instead, I had nothing..

So with that two year ordeal behind me, you’d think that I’d stamped perfectionism out of my system, right?

Here’s a more recent example.

When launching a new marketing strategy, the overriding urge is to do a deep dive before even creating an account on a platform.

I want to read every single marketing article out there to make sure I am as prepared as possible before I start.

Surprise!

Almost always, 80%+ of that planning and time is a complete waste!

What you find is that diminishing returns kick in pretty quickly. There’s only so much openly available, good information.

Yes, if you keep researching you may find more killer insights, but they become less and less easy to find, the more you know.

I find that before launching on a new platform, I only need perhaps 2–3 hours of research maximum. In that time you can find all of the best posts and articles and gather the knowledge that’s going to put you ahead of 80% of people.

The next thing is key — the extra info you find, is likely to be useless for one of two reasons:

  1. You don’t understand how this is implemented
  2. You think it’s harder to implement than it is.

Want to know how to quickly solve each of these?

By actually creating an account on a new platform and starting to push content out to it!

You will quickly realize what strategies are useful because you will be able to feel the platform. You’ll understand what information isn’t worth paying special attention to.

An really recent example of this is Pinterest rich pins. I’d convinced myself that they were an advanced strategy because they seemed complicated to set up from the reading I did.

What I actually found was that they took 5–10 minutes to set up once I actually decided to do it, and now they’re helping me absolutely crush Pinterest.

The point is that you should just get on the platform and start using it. You will understand it so much more quickly.

There’s also the added benefit that when you get on a platform, you’ll get a feel for what is actually helpful as a marketing strategy than when you read it online. If you’re familiar with the platform, you’ll know instinctively, almost, how helpful a strategy is likely to be.

When you find one that sounds interesting, you’ll also be able to implement it much more effectively, because you won’t have to focus on all of the extra information in the marketing article (account setup, defining what a hashtag is etc.), you’ll know what’s simple stuff and you’ll know what’s important.

Again, this all comes back to the point of planning being the enemy of action. You plan too much because you want your marketing to be perfect.

You’re afraid of just putting yourself out there and doing something.

We want to plan, we want to strategize, we basically want to put in the work to make sure that things go the way we want.

We don’t want to fail so we plan.

But, by planning so much you’re doing yourself much more harm.

So,

Suck it up, stop being a baby.

To look at it in the way that my robot brain does, I’d much rather spend 5 hours trying 5 different, good marketing attempts (creating 5 good Pinterest graphics with accompanying posts), than spend 5 hours making one perfect one.

From a maths angle, if a good piece of content is worth 7/10 points, and a perfect piece is a 10, then 5 x 7 = 35 points vs 10 points.

Off course there is value to massively over delivering on quality, but in most of the cases I’m referring to, it’s just more valuable to get loads of content out, figure out what does the best and refine from there.

So this post ended up a little longer than anticipated, but it’s important! If you take this few minutes of reading in, you will actually save time, unlike planning…

Planning is the enemy of action! You’re just scared. Stop worrying. What’s the worst that could happen?

You won’t be cast out by the Internet and embarrassed and haunted with scathing articles about your faults for all of eternity.

No one cares.

Just launch now and figure the rest out along the way.

Let me know your biggest planning fail!

How much time have you wasted?

Let me know!

Yo, I’m Connor!

I’m a smart person. I don’t do smart things.

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