Know Your Enemy

Photo by Harry Wood As I stood meditating in a Cypriot monastery, dripping with sweat from the extreme…

As I stood meditating in a Cypriot monastery, dripping with sweat from the extreme heat that enveloped me, I saw a vivid image in my minds eye of exactly what was holding me back from moving forward. The identity of my adversary had been revealed…

The last 4 years have been some of the most challenging for me in regards to life, career and everything in between. The things I would usually cling to for support were pulled back…or stripped away. Every juncture during this time, has presented a riddle or a test for me to decipher and walk through. The latest Moyma odyssey (yeh that’s right, some Kon Tiki ish) forced my hand to create my own proverbial raft, push it out into the proverbial ocean and throw caution into the proverbial wind. This journey has been very difficult at times but without a doubt it has also been amazingly fulfilling. This post is to share with you some of the things that I have learnt that may be of some help to you on your own journey.

Everything Is Perspective
“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so”. William Shakespeare.
A while back I did a gig in the a seaside town in Biarritz France at a Quiksilver event. There were surfers from all over the world there and at an after party I met a guy from Australia. I don’t remember his name…we will call him Bruce. Bruce was a surfer; the die hard type. He was that upbeat guy who always found a way to see things in a positive light and it seemed like nothing phased him. He lived and breathed surfing by indulging in daily battles with the ocean waves and the thing that was so amazing about my ol mucka Bruce was that…he only had one leg. Bruce lost his left leg while surfing in a place that wasn’t know for having sharks; he went out with two pins and came home with one. Bruce sat next to me that day in the Biarritz, sipping a brew in the blazing heat telling me how he lost his leg and I won’t forget it because of how nonchalantly he told the story; he may as well of been talking losing an eyelash. Bruce: “Yeh the shark got me leg (insert an Australian accent) but as soon as I had another one, I was back on my board”. As soon as you had another one?! Geez that ish doesn’t just grow back. Well it did grow back…in the form of metal prosthetic leg and once he had that badboy fitted, he was back on his board and that was that. Did he have a dark night of the soul where he had to think about the what ifs and get upset? Maybe…but that day he sat next to me and toasted living life now, with whatever hand you are dealt. He told me he could have died but he didn’t and he could still surf so there was no point getting upset. That boys and girls is the power of reframing. No one has an easy ride but how you look at things determines everything. I know it sounds like a flimsy sentiment but this is powerful if you can grasp it. Psychologists call it adversarial growth and post-traumatic growth; things that don’t kill you will make you stronger. Benjamin Franklin had a more pointed way of putting it “the things which hurt instruct”. Looking back on hard times is not so bad…living through them is the bigger pain in the arse and although retrospect adds a rose tint, perspective is powerful. The last few years have been…let’s say a little tricky for me but I have learnt to regularly spot check my mental filters because perspective is everything.

Embrace Your Fear
Fear can often be irrational. I realise you will be reading this straight after reading about a guy losing one of his legs and maybe thinking, if ol Bruce was more fearful…maybe he would still have his leg? Yeh maybe but maybe the tenacity he had for embracing life meant that he actually lived. He handled what life threw at him and that made him fearless. Instead of trusting that we have the capacity to deal with what comes our way, we tell ourselves a story of what we think will happen to justify our inaction. A guy called Marcus Aurelius wrote a journal he called “Writings To Myself” as a source for his own self guidance and self improvement. They were later published in “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius. One of the insights he had was that the hard things that we face are actually the route to get to the destination we want; what stands in the way becomes the way. Yeh that is some Bruce Lee-Yodaism my nizzisms…but this stuff is powerful. If you can reframe how you see things then even fear’s ugly mug doesn’t look so bad…yeh you got it…all of this stuff is linked. Read on mi amigo, read on.

Embrace The Struggle
Struggle is built into the journey and when you are hungry for something you will work hard to get it…or not as the case maybe. The people who embrace the struggle and don’t get deterred by the tough stuff, are usually the ones who reach their destination. The musician Jack White not only embraces the struggle, he goes out of his way to create it and uses it as a tool. “I really don’t like to take the easy way out, if I can help it, on anything I do, I like to really make it a challenge. I don’t know how to create by taking the easy routes. I’ve tried, you know, I’ve tried to let myself, but I always struggle to compensate”. Jack White does this by having crazy time constraints on the music he makes and by making his live show hard to perform. He has guitars that are bit bent and hard to tune, if he drops a pick he has other ones placed in an awkward place on stage. He is forcing himself in the moment and he does it through creating struggle but he doesn’t see struggle as a bad thing and that is because he has a different perspective (reframe). See a pattern? Pay attention homie…you will get it.

Failure Doesn’t Exist
Another thing I learnt out on my raft is that if you don’t ‘fail’ you can’t learn. Failure is the sign you are actually trying. How you deal with things when they don’t go to plan is really the big distinction but failure in and of itself is just a construct of your mind. You create the parameters of that word (failure) and then imprison or free yourself by the definition you give it. “Failure shows us the way—by showing us what isn’t the way.” Ryan Holiday. Failure becomes a path if you don’t give up. My friend…never give up.

Life Is Short
The last fews years have seen some new people walk into my life but sadly, it has seen many walk out. Some of these have been heartbreaking goodbyes and the finality of their departure has been potent enough to distill and shake my perspective to realise in a vivid sense; life is short and time is precious. In Seneca’s book “The Shortness of Life”, Seneca presents the array of positions we often adopt in life while at the same time making us face our own dominant self-deception mechanisms. “You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last”. We (humans/people/ya bredrins) are penny wise and dollar/pound (insert your currency) foolish when it comes to the use of our time. Our time here is finite and you don’t even know how long you’ve got…so surely your time is your greatest commodity? Death is the ultimate leveller because everyone will face it, and yes on face value death is a completely depressing sh*t show but death actually gives time its value. Ironically or not you actually connect with life more when you embrace your mortality. “People are frugal in guarding their personal property, but as soon as it comes to squandering time, they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy”.

Be Happy In The Now
“Some people are so poor, all they have is money”. Bob Marley
If you take nothing else from this blog, try and get this one cos this one really is money. One of the things I have learnt on my recent voyage is how to be happy now. I work hard but I started to see that my striving toward ‘the destination’ became my objective. I was losing why I originally enjoyed my work and life. We are programmed to build happiness into some future event so it becomes this thing that we are looking at in the distance but the problem is that it then becomes an ungraspable mirage. People tell themselves they will be happy when they get that job, or make that amount of money, or get that girl, guy, car or house. What you are actually doing is training your brain to think that happiness and fulfilment is a future event…so even if you do get those things you won’t be happy because you have trained your brain to look past it and look for another future event to dream about. I am not saying that achievements, relationships or money are bad but if you aren’t happy in yourself right now…you won’t enjoy that future event you are eyeing up because you havn’t sorted out your own head & heart; wherever you go, there you are…na mean?< So what do you have to do? In short you need to learn to be grateful and enjoy the present moment. Easy huh. The system around us makes us worry about the future and dwell in the past. I am not saying don’t plan for the future or learn from the past but for real, spend some time and consider how much your brain capacity is run by the past or the future (I am told by experts this is the root of anxiety and depression). What he or she said or did, comparisons and what might or could happen are some of the narratives that resonate in most peoples minds…well in mine for def. I learnt to ignore that fanfare and sit in the moment…whatever that moment was. This is subtle and nuanced…and the outworking of this is linked with learning to be grateful, which is linked to reframing situations…yeh this all linked, I told you this hombre. I do realise how cliche some of this sounds…but it is all worth exploring…and when I say exploring I mean do something. If you hate your job…leave it, if you hate your girl…leave her…if you hate your dog…feed it to your cat. I’m joking about the dog. Feed your girl to your dog, then feed the dog to the cat…keep it tidy. Jokes aside, my point is…beware of the golden handcuffs.

You Need People
Ever wonder why solitary confinement is a punishment? I used to get confused watching a film where prisoners would be punished with solitary confinement and think to myself…why is that such a big deal? They are in prison…so they are alone anyway!! Solitary confinement is a form of torture because you have no stimulus and the fact that it is used as a punishment in prison shows you how important being around other humans is, even if that human is a convicted felon who might rob you while you are sleeping or force you into a compromising situation if you dropped your soap in the shower. But Moyma aren’t the type of people you spend your time with a huge factor in all of this? Yes grasshopper, you are right. “In the past ten years, neuroscientists, psychologists, and economists have made quantum leaps in understanding why some of us flourish in happy, healthy lives and others do not. What has become clear is that we’re not just connected to others. We are the very product of the people and networks to which we are connected. Who you know determines who you are—how you feel, how you act, and what you achieve”. Time has taught me (especially in the last few years) to embrace and value the good people in my life. Relationships and people are important, it’s as simple as that but to add a nuance to this one, it’s also healthy to have time on your own…keep it balanced init.

You Are What You Eat
“I’m starvin, I’m in the mood, plain and simple I need food”.
I would like to premise this section with the fact that I love food. Gimme all of it. Burgers, pizza, curry, dumplings, biscuits, cake and chocolate. Unfortunately some of that stuff eaten regularly, in huge portions isn’t good for you. Shame. I also found out that each part of the body has a regenerative process (it completely rebuilds itself) which means it’s actually true; you are what you eat…so eating nutritious food makes sense..make sense? What you eat also affects your mental health so I had to give up thinking Chilli Heatwave Doritos are cheap prozac…but they kinda are though?! No? Doritos may help in the short term but long term I found that healthy nutritious food and regular exercise had huge positive effect on every area of my being. Exercising and eating a healthy diet (in my opinion) has better side effects than chowing down anti-depressants or crying a river after 20 gin and tonics. I am no doctor but I have countless friends who have had mental or physical ailments that were helped by changing their diet and lifestyle. But exercise sucks I hear you say. Yeh it does but here are some of the benefits. Exercise optimises your mindset to improve alertness, it helps nerve cells bind together which is the cellular basis for logging in new information (learning), it reduces stress, anxiety and depression by increasing serotonin and norepinephrine both in the moment and over the long term…shall I go on? Ok…it strengthens the cardiovascular system, it regulates fuel, it reduces obesity, it elevates your stress threshold, it boosts the immune system, it fortifies your bones, it boosts motivation and it fosters neuroplasticity (helps to keep ya brain strong). The bottom line is that exercise has many benefits so make it your friend…your friend with benefits.

Know Thy Self
“The first and best victory is to conquer self”. Plato
Ok..ermm thanks Moyma, this has been a very errr…thought provoking blog…but whass the dilly with the intro of this blog…something about errr sweating in a Cypriot prison? No my child, I was meditating in a Cypriot monastery (true story) and in that place…I saw in my mind’s eye a vivid image of my biggest adversary. The image was a clear as day and stood in front of me; my end level boss in all his glory. The image I saw in my mind’s eye was an image of…myself (true story). This has been the biggest thing I have learnt during this voyage of discovery which may sound like more blog fodder hokum but it’s true. The biggest thing that has stood in the way of me being happy, moving forward, facing my fears, embracing the struggle, enjoying the moment, connecting with people and realising my potential…is me. My biggest battle has been and probably always will be with myself. The temptation here is to tie this whole blog into a neat little hollywood-esque bow, concluding this in a tight inspiring way and letting you know it will all be ok…but I won’t do that. I have held your hand through the other parts…maybe this one is a voyage you also have to take for yourself and consider your own internal adversaries. I will say this…they are beatable. “When there are no enemies inside, the enemies outside can’t hurt you”.



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