This is a fantastic interview between Dave Cornthwaite and Alistair Humphreys, two professional adventurers. You should read the whole thing. They talk about various amazing things they’ve done, as well as the planning process and various other things.

Below is a fantstic quote from the interview which ties in nicely to what I was saying before about starting a new hobby:

Then I heard on Radio 4 someone describing himself as a “working artist”, meaning an artist who works and earns enough money to live. That was a massive epiphany for me, to realize that being a working artist, somebody who earns money from it, is enough. He’s obviously not Leonardo Da Vinci, or Michelangelo, but then if everyone compares themselves to the Da Vinci of whatever life they do, then that’s just ludicrous.

If you’re able to live from something you enjoy, you’re doing it right. It doesn’t matter how you chalk up to other people doing the same thing (whether at a higher or lower level). Quite a nice realisation, for sure.

Here are the guys:

Alistair Dave

I came across the exchange below on Reddit in a thread called “what’s the best gym advice you’ve been given?”. I can’t remember how as it wasn’t from clicking on the original thread, but it was a serendipitous find:

Reddit quote

I’m not sure whether substitution is the right name for the phenomenon (would love to know if it is and if not what the actual word is), but they’re right in saying that being aware of it is powerful.

It ties back to what I’ve written before (twice): doing something is infinitely better than thinking about doing it, even if the quality of the output isn’t as high as you’d like. You have something tangible to look at, to build on, to learn from, rather than just ideas kicking about and a growing sense of frustration because you’ve not made any progress.

The perceived gap between your current position may feel smaller if you have a tangible draft than if you have an idea for a  refined final concept in your mind but, in reality, it’s the other way round.

Three thoughts:

- an undone and abandoned to-do list is a list of things you’ve failed to do (lame)
– there is no harm removing something from your list
a done to-do list is an awesome list of things you’ve achieved

The blog post I wrote yesterday took ~15 minutes.

My normal process for blogging is to write down some notes on a piece – perhaps 5 bullet points – then save it as a draft with the intent to write it up later. I have over 100 drafts in various places currently, so obviously the method doesn’t work.

The reasoning is that the time between initial notes and actual writing will let me nail down the message and tone of the post, when in reality I don’t think about it again. The best way to nail down the message and tone of a post is to write it.

So, in future, I’ll just write it.

I think that can be terrible advice, personally. Especially if you don’t know what the end goal is.

Time spent wondering whether actions are leading to the end goal boils down to the following though process:

- 1: is this leading to the end goal?
– 2: if no, what’s the point?

This causes concern, makes you feel like you’re wasting time, and doesn’t put any focus on interim steps: building skills, hitting subsidiary goals, etc.

Sometimes the default response when starting a task / hobby is to look at the people who are best at the task (in the world, not just in your social circles) not necessarily with the intent to reach that point, but as a guide for what success in the field looks like.

There are two ways to view these people:

- An impossible-to-attain figurehead that represents the ultimate success in the field
– Someone whose learning process and progress can be studied, broken down, learned from

Annoyingly the default seems to be the former, resulting in frustration and disappointment as you inevitably don’t become the best in the world at everything you put your hand to.

Obviously the better action is the latter. Learning the skills needed to progress, charting successes along the way, taking insights from mistakes and setbacks (and just enjoying yourself, of course).

This phenomenon in the context of choosing a career is covered nicely by a blog post called ‘Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy‘, by Tim Urban. I’d recommend reading it yourself, but to summarise:
– “happiness = reality – expectations”
– as a generation, we’re quite ambitious: this can lead to more frequent disappointment
– we have unrealistic expectations of what success will look like
– these expectations are fuelled by unrealistic portrayals of people in our social circles via social media

And also a bit by this guy from the fantastic HONY, who summarises well the dangers of focussing on the ‘big thing':

humans of new york picture

So what actions can be taken from all this?
– if you must look to the highest achievers, explore and learn from their journey to the top
– don’t compare yourself to people’s tailored, hand-crafted social media presences
– compare yourself to your former self: celebrate all achievements

I wrote this 18 months ago and never posted it for some reason. Here it is:

tl;dr – ways you can change negativity into positivity in the short term and long term


Three things I believe:

- Karma exists, but is not governed by a supernatural force

- Positivity and negativity are self-perpetuating

- You can change negativity into positivity

I’ll attempt to articulate why I believe these points and how I believe you can achieve #3.

Karma exists, but is not governed by a supernatural force:

Karma is a complicated concept and is interpreted differently between various religious / spiritual / scientific philosophies. My understanding of the term is something along the lines of “what goes around comes around”, rather than a cumulative force that decides how you will be reincarnated. I think it can (and does) exist without supernatural intervention, also.

I consider karma to mean the tendency for people to do nice things for / to you and want to spend time with you if you do nice things for / to other people and are rewarding to spend time with. Phrased in these terms, it seems obvious – who would want to spend time with a jerk? Or who would avoid spending time with a really nice person who values your time?

It’s important to note I think karma is an example of correlation, not causation.

Positivity and negativity are self-perpetuating:

If you believe the aforementioned kind of karma exists, it demonstrates this point well; Positive outward actions lead to positive inward actions, negative lead to negative. If someone does a positive thing for you, you’re likely to perceive this positively, feel more positive because of it, and be more likely to do further positive things as a result.

A basic example:

If your friend buys you a beer, you’re more likely to buy him one later.


If someone throws a pint on you in a bar, your more likely to want to hit them.

I think this perpetuating positivity (I’m going to stop referring to negativity now – who wants to perpetuate that?) can occur in thought processes as well as actions, through mood (short term) and mindset (long term).

You’ll know from experience that everything seems better when you’re in a good mood. I don’t think this is chance – I think this is because you perceive and appraise everything in a more positive way, whether you know you’re doing it or not.

This is something I’ve experienced (on both levels), which is why I believe

You can change negativity into positivity:

There’s no reason to stay in a bad mood if you’re in one, or to maintain a less-than-ideal vision of the world because of habit. I’m by no means trivialising depression or grief or any other causes of negative emotions, but I think there are ways you can change your thinking to become more positive.

I mentioned positive mood as a short term outcome, and positive mindset as a long term one, so I’ll cover those separately. Below are methods I’ve used personally to good effect, so I hope they’re useful.


If you’re in a bad one,

- Try to figure out why

- Get somewhere calm. Take a few deep breaths and attempt to remove yourself from any factors enhancing the bad mood.

- Evaluate any reasons you highlighted in the wider context, not just within your bad mood (they’ll look a lot less bad)

- Focus on something POSITIVE


This is harder, but still possible. I’m still trying to figure out how to do this more,

- Meditate regularly. I did mindfulness meditation for fifteen minutes two or three time a week for a couple of months, and my average levels of anxiety and stress dropped noticeably (from the inside and from the outside) and have remained lower two years later.

- Try to see the good side of every situation. Think about why commuting by public transport is good (time to read, less environmental impact), why spilling your coffee isn’t bad (didn’t burn me, can get another point on my loyalty card sooner), and so on. This is hard, but seeing the positive side of things quickly becomes habitual.

- Do more things you enjoy and less things you don’t. Easier said than done? Not necessarily. Change your internet homepage to a site about your hobby instead of Google, wear the hat you like even if it doesn’t match, and so on.

- Take actions and decisions for your benefit. I saw the term ‘cognitive dissonance’ on the wikipedia page for karma earlier, and it captures this point nicely. If you do things for your benefit, the dissonance between what you want to do and what you do disappears, so it’s harder to feel bad about it. This doesn’t mean “be selfish” either, just don’t pander to other people’s desires. The actions and decisions you take will then feel more rewarding (although there is a greater sense of accountability attached to these kinds of decisions – I might expand this into its own post).

Those tips, combined with an active desire to think more positively and some reflection on your progress, are definitely workable. I hope they help!

To recap:

- What goes around is likely to come around

- People are more likely to be nice to you if you’re not a jerk

- Things seem better when you’re in a good mood, and worse when you’re in a bad mood

- A bad mood / negative outlook isn’t permanent


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