Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

– Neale Donald Walsch

As nice as it is to be warm, safe and comfortable, are they states that benefit us? Yes and no. In times of recovery, rest and recuperation, the luxury of being in a state, place or environment that facilitates, and even radiates, comfort, warmth and safety is absolutely beneficial for us, but we must not forget that we must first have reason to require time for rest in order to recover and recuperate.

If we need to recover from something, I think we can all agree that the something in question must have been an activity or situation that was either stressful, challenging or in some way outside of your ‘comfort zone’. That could be psychological or physiological; stressors followed by recovery is an important cycle for the optimal health of both.

Rest and recovery is great because it’s when we use what we’ve experienced to build our bodies and minds, and ultimately to grow in some way or other. But without this rest being preceded by some sort of effort, a source of stress on either the body or the mind, there is nothing to recover from, and so no recovery takes place. It is just rest. Rest for what sake? Everything has a purpose in life, and rest is important for recovery from stressful experiences or situations. Without this rest has no purpose and so becomes devoid of value and even detrimental to our health.

Perpetual rest is stillness. What else do we know of that is still with no purpose? Dead things. Cold things. Lifeless things. Movement is life – the more you move your body the more alive you feel, the more energy you have and the more powerful you are to take life by the reigns.

Yes, rest has it’s place, but it must be a balanced equation. You are either growing or you’re dying – you’re either building muscle through hypertrophy, or losing muscle through atrophy; there’s no middle ground. Growth is the only way to stay alive, because it keeps you moving forward.

That’s why it’s so important to have the courage to step outside your comfort zone on a regular basis. Try new things, immerse yourself in new experiences, and visit new places. Always have an open mind and you’ll be amazed at the things you learn from the opportunities that come your way. When we are open to what life has to offer, we allow ourselves to see the abundant opportunity all around us.

Discomfort is a powerful catalyst for growth, and I urge you to harness it. Do something that makes you feel uncomfortable, do something that scares the shit out of you. Write down how it feels, and what you learn about yourself in the process. This is all about introspection, and self-analysis – the better you know yourself, the better you will both understand and command your World.

The more you do things the perpetuate growth like this, the more you will find your capacity for everything in life grows. The more you expand your experiences and understanding of yourself and the World around you, the more your comfort zone will expand and the more people and opportunities you will welcome into your field of view.

If you do the things you have always done, you will get the results you have always got. If you’re happy with where you are right now, then I congratulate you – you’re doing great. However, if you’re not so happy with where you are right now then it’s time to start thinking about doing some things differently. Start going to some different places, with some different people and having some different experiences to expand your World view and open yourself to a new way of seeing and being that better serves you.

Remember, fear never goes away for any of us, but the definition of courage is to act in spite of fear. So I challenge you to be courageous – you’re life depends on it.

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Everything I See Is A Reflection Of Me

As I look out on the World as I journey through life, and as the World pours into me, I am acutely aware that my perception is but a projection of myself upon my environment. The information comes in, mixes with my filters, biases and rule sets, and then gets spat back out by it’s creator under the guise of representing reality.

This holds true for each and every living creature in existence, and so you have to ask – what is reality?

We tend to think of reality as something fixed – a string of moments flowing along the space-time continuum, the parameters of which defined by strict rules, principals and expectations. But, it would seem more plausible to think of reality as being more flexible, dynamic and diverse.

Each and every person’s version of reality is different, and the reality defined by a human being is a lot different to that of a cat or a fish. For all these different experiences to co-exist in harmony as they do must require that reality be extremely diverse in nature, flexible in it’s manifestation and something not quite as solid and definable as we might otherwise like to believe.

We should be mindful of this as we move through our lives.

When we encounter others who do not meet our standards or who do not deliver on our expectations, it’s very easy to get caught in the trap of believing that it is the other person who is at fault, rather than taking some time to be a little more introspective and seeking out the real reason for the failed communication.

If you are struggling to get through to someone, the first thing most people might assume is that the person listening to the explanation lacks the intelligence to understand it. Whereas that might be true, it is always the obligation and responsibility of the person explaining a new concept, theory or skill to explain and teach it in such a way that it is easily understood and remembered by the student.

You might not think of yourself as a teacher, but we are all teachers in life. We teach others through our actions and by our example both consciously and unconsciously, and it is the latter we must strive to be most mindful of. Often, people remember things from their childhood which are extremely emotionally significant for them, and that shaped the way they viewed the World from the moment onwards, but that the other person involved can’t even remember years later because the event had no emotional significance to them. This is particularly relevant in parent-child relationships. As parents, we must always be mindful of the potential effect of the things we say, and the behaviours we demonstrate in their presence. Even the smallest of things, can have a transformationally profound effect on young minds.

Each and every one of us has within us a wealth of things that others would find value in learning. We teach others every day when we interact with them through the course of living our lives, by effecting their experiences and altering their perceptions and interpretations of their immediate World space. Be mindful of how much power you have over others. Choose a positive, strong state, and wake up each and every day with so much purpose and passion it’s all you can do to stop yourself from bursting out and showering the World in light.

Purpose and passion – two excellent reasons to be alive.

What does the way you see your World and use those things to shape your reality say about you? What is your reflection showing you?

Pain or Pleasure?

There are two prime movers in life that provide motivation to change where we are, and improve our position towards avoiding one, and moving towards the other; enter pain and pleasure. But, which is the more powerful motivating force in our lives?

“The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you.”

– Tony Robbins

Ultimately, it comes down to these two things, and these two things alone. What are the sources of pain in our lives? These are the things we are motivated to move away from. Anything that causes us pain, will be a motivator for some sort of change in our lives as the only way to move away from a present source of pain is for it to be not so present anymore. If we change who are, who we associate with and how we behave then are able to facilitate changes in ourselves, and thus our lives, which reduces the amount of pain we feel.

Equally as important and motivating (especially for the male species it seems) is the desire to move towards experiences and behaviours that give us pleasure. Any experience that increases happiness, fulfilment or love in life is going to act as a powerful force pulling us towards more of the same. Who doesn’t want more pleasure in their lives, right?

But here’s the thing; are the two really equal in their power over us? Surprisingly, no.

“People will do more to avoid pain than they will do to gain pleasure”

– Tony Robbins

It seems pain is a much more powerful agent for change than gaining pleasure – something Tony has noticed after working with millions of people over the course of his career in coaching people to ultimate personal success. Increase someone’s level of pain they feel around something they’re not happy with in their life and they’re considerably more likely to make the changes necessary, and more importantly to embed those changes as a new way of live, than they are if they were to attempt to motivate themselves with the promise of pleasure as a reward for changing.

There are a few reasons for this, and it makes sense when you think about it. Firstly, if you’re in a position where you are feeling deep pain it’s like being in an oven turned up to maximum heat. You will do anything to stop the pain because it’s very real in the here and now. The alternative you’re trying to move towards might not even be pleasure, but just a more benign state that is more bearable than the searing heat of your current situation. In a state of pain, the here and now is far from comfortable, and this is a huge motivating factor.

Conversely, if the level of pain is more bearable, and you are attempting to motivate change by focusing on the pleasure of achievement, of reaching your goals, then your here and now is a lot more comfortable. Sure, it would be great to lose that weight, or to get a better job that you enjoy more, but that seems like a lot of work compared with the relative comfort of your present position. When the current level of pain is tepid, the motivation to get off your arse and do what needs to be done can wane quickly, like water through a sieve. Comfort is a dangerous animal, and we should all take great care to not spend too much time there – when we’re comfortable, we aren’t capable of achieving our greatest potential for personal and professional growth.

“In this World you’re either growing or you’re dying, so get in motion and grow”

– Lou Holtz

In the words of T. Harv Eker; you have to grow you comfort zone to grow your money zone. This is true in all walks of life; you don’t grow a muscle without first stressing it through exercise, and pushing it to the limits of it’s capability. You don’t improve your VO2 Max or marathon time without stressing your cardiovascular system and pushing it to it’s limits on a regular basis. Stress is the prime mover for growth, whether it’s physical stress to strengthen the body, or psychological stress to strengthen the fortitude of the mind. Just take a look around you, look deeply at the World and you will see this law of nature all around you as you start to notice the mechanics of life.

This is why so many people talk about wanting to change – and they really do want to change – but never actually do. It’s because they’re too comfortable where they are, and although they aren’t happy with their situation, they aren’t in enough pain to get the motivation required to take action and make the changes they need in their lives. A typical example is someone who complains constantly about their work life; they hate their job, their boss is an arsehole and the office politics are unbearable. Yet, those same people are still in the same situation after years of suffering because they are too comfortable. They might hate their jobs, but they make excuses like; I have a family to feed, I have a mortgage, I have obligations and commitments, and that’s why I am stuck where I am.

Bullshit. You’re stuck where you are because ever day you wake up and make a conscious choice to stay in a life you despise. Take some responsibility, own your life and your decisions, because no one is holding a gun to your head. You and you alone are the sole person who has made all the choices in your life, and if you haven’t then you have let others make your choices for you – which is still you making a choice to abdicate from making your own choices.

I’ve been that person, so I speak from first hand experience.

So, if you are not happy with some aspect of your life you need to make the experience more painful. Take that pain dial and turn it up to 11! Trying to coax yourself to change by dangling the carrot of pleasure is unlikely to have the motivational power required to make the significant changes in life that can really move the needle in your level of happiness and fulfilment. Instead, step into the pain of where you are and amplify it. A great exercise you can practice to do this is to meditate on the things that you’re not happy with in your life, and imagine traveling through time into your future – 5 years, then 10 years, then 20 years…. and see yourself and your life as it will be if you don’t make the changes you need to make in your life. What have you lost? What opportunities did you miss? What does it feel like to deal with that level of pain and despondency for all those years? How bitter have you become as a result of your resentment and low self-esteem? As you move years into your hypothetical future amplifying those feels and seeing all the negative effects not changing has had on you, your loved ones and your life as a whole, a determination builds up in you like no other. When the pain is so great from being fully aware and present in how your lack of action will manifest in your life years from now, you will also find an overwhelming motivation to get in motion and start doing things differently. From that state, go back to the present and commit fully to making the changes you need to make in your life – the pain from your current path now being so great that staying there is unbearable, and moving away from it is a must. See how those changes play out in your life, and feel all the rewards, happiness and fulfilment they will bring you over the coming weeks, months and years. The more present you can be throughout this exercise, the more potent the experience will be.

This is such a powerful method for combining the power of both pain and pleasure as agents for change. It’s an experience I have personally been through, and I can tell you it was a like a roundhouse kick to the face in waking me up and getting me making the changes I needed to make in my life.

Amazing things happen when you stand up and take ownership of your choices in life – doors open that you never knew existed and everything starts to come together. Is it easy? Fuck no. Remember what this blog is about? You NEED discomfort to grow! You need pain because it is a powerful prime mover. We are all going to feel both pleasure and pain in our lives no matter what decisions we make, because we can’t get it right all the time. That being the case, we need to learn how to make the pain and pleasure we experience work to serve us and build our character.

Pain and pleasure are both wonderful teachers, and they each teach very different subjects. The lessons taught by painful experiences cannot be taught by pleasurable experiences, and vice versa. We need both to grow, and to live in harmony and balance. That can be a hard thing to accept, especially with some of the decadence and brutality we see in the World, but in accepting this we allow ourselves to take back control of our lives and our destiny.

Life doesn’t happen to you, life happens for you.

The Entrepreneur Revolution

Today’s post is inspired both by the conversations I’ve been having with other business owners and entrepreneurs over the last few weeks, and by the inspiring book by Daniel Priestley – Entrepreneur Revolution: How to develop your entrepreneurial mindset and start a business that works. It’s an excellent read, filled with inspiring and thought provoking insights into the emerging world of entrepreneurs.

Obviously, entrepreneurial types have been around for as long as social groups have existed, so the existence of such people in the world should come as no surprise. However, we are now witnessing an acute landscape of change, and one in which the entrepreneurial mindset is not only fertile, but also increasingly more necessary.

Jason Silva made an interesting point in a recent interview with BUILD in New York City when he talked about how the rate of change in the world, like technology, is increasing exponentially. That means there is more change happening at a faster pace now than ever before, and it is getting faster and time moves on. The result of this has found us standing on the precipice of a serious paradigm shift. Right now, at this point in time, the rate of change in the world has increased to the point at which that process of change is now noticeable across one human lifetime, and this has never before been the case.

Sure, there have been major catastrophic events that have caused mass extinctions and had a major affect on the flora and fauna of the Earth, but I am talking about the rate of progress and that’s completely different. I’m talking about the progress we are making in our technological advances, the progress we are making in medicine and understanding the laws that govern life on this planet and beyond, and the progress we are making in understanding the universe we live in and how we relate to each other on an energetic level.

And so here on the precipice we stand. What lies ahead, we can only begin to imagine – but it’s so important we take that jump. In fact, we no longer have the choice. The momentum we have built to this point will push us through and into our next phase of existence as a race. These are exciting times, as this has massive potential to be a very positive shift for us spiritually and culturally.

Even our parents didn’t grow up in a world where the rate of societal change was so profound, and maybe this goes some way to explaining why they can sometimes so easily be left dazzled by the onslaught of the technological world the now engulfs us. Maybe is goes some way to help explain why they struggle to let go, when by comparison the younger generations adapt to change as easily as a leaf shifts it’s flight path in a gust of wind.

My generation and younger have grown up with this level of change – we grew up with it, watching it mutate and transform the world around us, even as we ourselves transform from babies, to teenagers, to adults. We have lived this pace every second of our lives; it’s part of us, and it even helped to shape who we have grown up to be, as it will for every generation that follows.

This observation blew me away, as it makes so much sense.

Relating this to business, it tells us that there is no longer any space in the market for company’s who wish to find a niche and rest on their laurels, failing to adapt and grow with the market place. This is where modern entrepreneurs thrive. They move at a fast pace and they are always thinking 10 steps ahead of where they are, with clear vision and passion driving them to get to where they need to be. Standing on the verge of a major paradigm shift, with change the only thing in life that comes with a 100% guarantee, now is the time of entrepreneurs.

This position is further compounded by the exponential advancement of technology – specifically, automated robotics. Make no mistake, technology is decimating the jobs market and it will continue to do so at an ever increasing rate over the coming months and years.

Elon Musk has recently been in the news speaking of his advocation for a basic minimum financial allowance for everyone on the basis of the same argument. With the way that technology is evolving, and the speed at which advances are being made, it isn’t going to be long before most service and engineering jobs are fulfilled by machines. Robots already build our vehicles, and we are already serving ourselves via supermarket ‘self-service’ checkouts. That time is all but here. Ask yourself – could your job be done more cost effectively and more efficiently by a machine utilising technology that exists today? For a lot of people, the answer will be a resounding yes.

So, what does this mean for the jobs market?

In my opinion, it will result in an inevitable shift of focus to creative pursuits and will therefore result in more innovation at an exponential rate. If people aren’t able to take the millions of jobs they currently utilise for income because those jobs are now taken by machines, then what will they do? Become entrepreneurs that have the freedom and time to perpetually innovate, dream and speculate. Can you imagine the power of an intelligent species that has taken care of everyday needs through the development and implementation of advanced technology, and who therefore has ever waking hour to think about, plan and take acton on making the world a better place and exploring the expanses of the universe?

It’s a powerful vision at the very least.

Who knows what the future holds in store for us, but given the way the landscape looks right now, I would say that the age of the entrepreneur is well and truly upon us.

It’s time to start thinking a little differently, and, as Daniel Priestley would say, it’s time to make a Dent

Are You Being Honest With Yourself?

Pain is a common experience in life; one that we will all have to deal with at some point or other for a multitude of different reasons.

Pain is a symptom of some underlying cause – no one in history has woken up one and being in physical or emotional pain for no reason. There’s always a catalyst. Physical pain is usually the result of physical damage to your physical being; your body. Whether it’s cut and bruises or a broken arm, damage to your physical self will result in a pain signal being generated which triggers a heightened awareness of the damaged area (as well as notifying you that potentially serious damage has been caused) and kicks various bodily processes into gear to begin repairing the damage.

Emotional – or mental – pain is no different.

When we find ourselves experiencing emotional pain, it too is a symptom with an underlying issue as it’s cause. Whilst we are usually aware of this fact, we tend to only scratch the surface in our analysis of the problem. For example, I may be angry (anger, depression, anxiety, jealousy, envy as all forms of emotional pain – categorised as such because they are detrimental to both our mental and physical wellbeing) because of things said in an argument with someone close to me and my initial reaction would be to assess my anger as being the result of factors external to myself – the callous and untrue things the other person said to me in that argument. This though, is the first mistake.

Whenever we blame factors external to ourselves we immediately relinquish all control over the situation and our reaction to it to others – other people or other factors outside of our control. This immediately puts us into a completely unresourceful state by demanding that we adopt a victim mentality. You see this through all walks of life – if someone loses their job they blame the economy, if marriage breaks up each party more often than not blames the other, and if employees in your business fail to perform and deliver results then it’s their fault for being incompetent and lazy.

Taking this attitude is the fastest and surest way to guarantee repeated and perpetual failure; the result of which being a frustrating life filled with lack of direction and lack of fulfilment. After all, if you have given away control of your life to others by blaming everyone around you for your problems then how can you possibly hope to put yourself in a position to empower yourself to solve the challenges YOU face?

Another great example is when trying to explain someone to another person. The first reaction most people default to when trying to explain something the other person doesn’t understand is to blame them – we say things to ourselves like, ‘why is this person so stupid that they can’t grasp this simple concept?’. Notice that this again puts the blame onto the other party – but did you stop to consider that you had done a shit job of explaining it? It might make sense to you, but it’s your idea – if it doesn’t make sense to you then you shouldn’t even be talking about it outside the framework of speculation and philosophy! When we blame the other person, we end up putting ourselves in a position whereby we find ourselves banging our heads up against a brick wall as we get more and more frustrated with the other person for not understanding. This approach will more often end in a disagreement and bad feeling, and is therefore completely unproductive – even counterproductive.

However, when we shift the focus back to ourselves and take responsibility for not explaining the idea in a way that others can understand we immediately empower ourselves to do better in getting our message across. You see, you have no control over others – but you have every control over yourself (or at least you should be aiming to achieve this level of self control).

“When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is!”

Take ownership. Take Responsibility. You and you alone are responsible for your life and how you deal with what it chooses to throw at you. There is value in everything, and it’s your job to find it.

It is this lack of ownership that causes people to experience emotional pain, and it’s a direct result of not being honest with yourself. In the example above, I am not being honest with myself if I blame the other person’s apparent stupidity before first looking within. I am relinquishing control over that element of my life to forces I have no control over because I am not being honest with myself about my ability to explain my idea. It’s the easy way out to blame others, it’s a lot hard to be introspective and self-critical in the way I have described. No one likes to admit fault or being wrong, yet it is one of the most important skills you can learn to set yourself up for massive success in life.

No matter what life throws at you, or what situations you find yourself in, it is so important to take ownership for how you got there in the first place to empower you and give yourself the tools you need to get the best out of each situation. You must be honest with yourself, as if you can do this consistently it will be sure to drastically reduce the amount of emotional pain you feel throughout life. When you feel emotional distress or pain, go deep. Go past the situation that appears to be the cause of the problem, and look at the underlying causes that sit behind it. Ask yourself, ‘am I being honest with myself about the details of this situation, and am I taking ownership of my role in this? Am I blaming others when I should be looking at how I could have handled that situation better?’

Life really is whatever we make it, but there is a level of ownership and responsibility that comes with learning how to build the lives we desire. Pain is a clue that there are things in your life that are out of alignment with your core values. It is a clear signal of a severe lack of congruence between the way you think a situation is and the way it actually is. With this in mind, use pain for the purpose it was designed for – to increase your introspective awareness of yourself and how you are interacting with your environment so you can take ownership and move forward. Pain is a clue, and a big red flag that most people fail to address because they have surrendered their power to do so to the situation itself. Take the hint, and look at yourself and the part you play more deeply.

So many people spend their lives looking outside themselves for the answers to their questions when all the answers they need they can find within themselves if they bother to look. It is in the ability to do this – be self-observant and introspective – where true personal power is realised, and this power potential exists in all of us. The only difference between us is our motivation to put feet to the dirt and ask the tough questions of ourselves to uncover and harness it in all it’s glory.

You might get away with lying to others, but you can never lie to yourself.

If you do one thing in life – be honest with yourself.

What Is Music?

“An art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions insignificant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and colour

– Dictionary Definition of ‘Music

Music, to me, is many different things.

My first experience of music were the songs I heard on the radio as a child, and even then I saw the power music seemed to have over the human psyche. Family car journeys that started out tense due to some sort of family disagreement (usually us kids arguing or otherwise acting up) would quickly evaporate into singing and smiles after a few of our favourite songs had blared out of the speakers. Music can change your mood in an instant, and that is a powerful attribute in it’s own right.

My next experience of music was way more intense.

I really started to ‘get’ music and start forming my own taste when I met my best friend in primary school. He was a huge influence on me musically, and I soaked up all the different rock ‘n’ roll bands he used to introduce me to playing his old style records on a secondhand turntable in his box room. Those were great times. Hearing all that rich music gave me a taste for the world that, until that point, had lay relatively hidden from me. All these different tastes, styles and influences – so much to take in!

It was Jake who piqued my interest in becoming a musician back when I met him in primary school, and I remember begging him for two years to let me join his band, but to no avail. Alas, they had all the members they needed and I was surplus to requirements (I couldn’t even play an instrument at the time, but I planned on figuring that out once I’d got a place in the band). That changed when we all went our separate ways to secondary school, which resulted in half of the band going to one school and the other half another. This was inconvenient for rehearsals, as these usually took place during school time, and so they band split. That was my opportunity! Hence, my first band was born in a dingy practise room in the depths of the Meole Brace School music department (Meole Brace Science College these days).

Writing and playing music in a band was a completely different experience to sitting in my mate’s room listening to an LP on a record player. The sheer energy and emotion behind the live music were the most intense and surreal feelings I had ever experienced at that point in my life. It was like the notes flowed through me, connecting me with my voice in a way I had never experienced before; I remember feeling almost naked when I used to sing, because writing lyrics was like taking my heart out of my chest and putting it on display for all to see. It was such as emotive experience, and so totally powerful.

Writing was something else again. The best way I have come up with to describe the writing process for me is that I don’t actually write the songs; they’re already written. All I have to do is enter my flow state and pull the different pieces from the ether before piecing them back together in the rehearsal room. Now, that may sound a little crazy to some of you if you’re never had this sort of experience, but this is the best way I can describe to you the way it feels for me. It was like channeling a special sort of energy that gave me access to a realm of limitless creativity, multiple perspectives and hyper-connectivity. It was, and still is for me, the purest form of flow I have ever experienced in my life. Standing on stage with a group of people you share that level of depth and connection with, pumping out your emotions in waves of sound that connect and morph in the air around you to create a magical charge of electrical energy in the room, is one of the most enchanting experiences I have had to this day. It is unlike any drug out there, or that I have experienced at least. That state takes you somewhere else – somewhere where ideas gain clarity and focus, connecting is all sorts of weird and wonderful ways, which allows you to see the world a little differently from others; it adds a special kind of perspective.

It’s so easy to get lost in that energy.

Music is also a time capsule. Who hasn’t been driving along when a song they haven’t heard in years randomly comes on the radio and before you know it you’re swept back 10 years into your past to an experience you remember like it was yesterday? You can smell the smells, hears the sounds and feel the sensations of your memory as if it were happening all over again. It can be a surreal experience, and I think it’s amazing how a simple song can trigger such a powerfully cognitive, and often physiological response as the nostalgia sweeps over you.

Songs that hold deep meaning for us at any given time have amazing power to lock potent experiences into your memory for later recall; the song the acting as the trigger at some point in the future.

Music is also, at it’s most basic level, sound. This may sound obvious, but bear with me.

With each passing day, scientists are discovering more and more about the power of sound and it’s potential effect on matter. We now know that we can use certain frequencies as destructive weapons by focusing beams of sound energy, it can be used to levitate physical objects and for brain wave entrainment through the use of Binaural Beats. Music and sound in general literally affect the oscillations of brain waves, so can be a useful tool in changing how we feel by having a direct physiological effect on our bodies. This is useful as a tool to help put you in a resourceful state and empower you with feelings of confidence so you can face the challenges of your day. It can also help you wind down after a long or stressful day at work – there is a piece of music for every state imaginable.

I had a laminated piece of card in the room for years when I was growing up that read ‘Music is medicine, it can cure anything’. Now, saying that it can cure anything is quite a lofty claim, as I’m sure you’ll agree, but it has certainly helped me through some pretty dismal times in my life, whilst also providing the soundtrack to my ebb and flow of my myriad experiences over the years. To this day there are songs that make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck when they come on the radio, and I have never lost my ability to tap into that pure state of flow that comes with writing and performing music live.

Music can be all things, and it can be whatever you need or want it to be. It can be hard or soft, fast or slow – these days we are lucky enough to access via the internet to pretty much anything we want, and music is a tool you just can’t afford to not have accompany you through life. It has powerful abilities as a state changer, and so is useful for this purpose alone.

For me, it is a form of expression so deep and powerful that I feel I am ripping open my chest and baring my soul to the world when I write and perform. It is the purest form of communication I know of, and one that transcends geography, culture and differences. It is form of communication that transcends language, communicating thoughts and feelings on so many different levels that it can only be felt and never described. Music is a vehicle for unity, understanding and connectivity. If you read between the lines, you will see an underlying emotional message lurking between the rhythm and rhyme – a message so potent that words are powerless to describe it. It is a vicarious rollercoaster ride of emotional experience that can make you laugh or cry.

Whether it’s uppers or downers you’re looking for, music has a pill for you…

You’re Either Growing Or You’re Dying

You’re either growing or dying – there really is no middle ground.

Whilst it may seem like we’re neither growing nor dying due to a lack of noticeable motion towards one or the other, that sense of static is nothing more than the illusion of stillness resulting from a temporary equilibrium in your movement between each polar opposite. To say it another way, you are dying equally as much as you are growing, and the result is the illusion of stillness. Maybe if you were able to measure your movement towards growth and death at a smaller scale, you would see that you’re not still at all, but always moving towards one or the other.

Unless we make a conscious effort to make progress towards our growth, the default of death and decay takes over. It’s so important to pump life into our actions – passion and purpose – because without this life force injection, everything slows down and stops. When you stop, you die. You’re heart STOPS beating. Your nervous system STOPS transmitting or receiving. Your brain STOPS thinking. The more life you can put into each action, the movement you will conjure and the more alive you will be able to be. Movement is life, and movement thought of in a different way is simply perpetual change.

Change is the only thing that’s guaranteed in life, and change is what keeps us alive.

I’ve never understood people who are afraid of change, and who find themselves unwilling to move with the motion of life’s natural flow. It is what gives us energy, it defines the very nature of our existence. Change should be embraced, because change is overflowing with potential power waiting to be harnessed. When things change, you make a choice to either focus on the loss or the new opportunity – with every change comes fresh new opportunities. Are you going to wallow in an non-resourceful state as a result of the way you have chosen to view a given situation, or are you going to take off the blinkers by accepting the situation for what it is and opening your mind to new opportunities?

The wings of change can be a lot of different things, but one thing is guaranteed – they will always be there to drive motion into our lives. Accept that, learn to move with them, and you will find it much easier to jump into life’s flow. Flow is an amazing state – one I have personally experienced in both my career as a musician and as a martial artist. It is a state of being completely at one with the Universe, with no thought, yet acutely aware of, and connected to, everything. It is a sense of knowing deeper than any other I have ever experienced. It is a feeling of connection, gratitude and acceptance so deep and powerful that it’s a million times more potent an experience than any drug on the market. There is nothing like it.

If you’re interested in the subject of flow and want to learn more, I highly recommend the following book by Steven Kotler where he delves deep into the subject of flow states and how super athletes have been tapping into these states of decades to push the limits of human potential (click the picture below for more information):

The principal of being either in a state of growth or a state of dying is applicable to all aspects of life. It is as true for the muscles in our bodies, as it is for business and for our mental fortitude.

If we lift weights and exercise, then we are building muscle by facilitating muscle growth through movement and by making the muscles we want to grow do work. However, if we stop lifting weights or exercising then we will see our muscle mass decrease as our muscles atrophy as a direct result of a lack of sufficient levels of exercise or movement. Now, as described earlier, it may be that our muscle mass and relative strength stay at a consistent level but this does not mean it’s neither growing nor dying. All this means is that you are doing sufficient levels of work through movement and exercise to facilitate the same level of growth as the level of atrophy – the result being neutral overall. The muscle is still atrophying, and it is still growing; you just don’t see the physical effects of either because one is balanced out by the other.

This principal can also be applied to business. A business is either growing, or it is dying. Now, a business can be growing in different areas at different times, and this doesn’t mean that in order for a business to be successful it has to be growing all aspects of it’s operations all the time, at the same time. For example, you may focus on increasing – or growing – your turnover during the first two quarters, and then switch your growth focus to systems and processes so they can be developed to support the new turnover level. You may then chose to shift your growth focus to your team, or asset base. Even though the growth focus shifts to different areas of the business during different parts of it’s life cycle, the nett effect is the same – the business is growing in one way or another.

It is important to ensure that you cycle your growth focus in your business as described above, especially if you don’t have the physical resources to grow every aspect of the business at once. If you leave one area of the business behind whilst you grow others – for example, growing your turnover without growing the systems and processes to support it – you will be setting yourself up for a mighty crash. Trust me – I know from experience by having had to take this hard road in my business.

Think of your business like the building in which it resides; if you simply carry on with your day to day business and make no effort to undertake general repairs and maintenance to the building, over the years it will deteriorate and, if no work is undertaken to remedy the effect of time, will crumble back into the Earth. However, if you carry out the periodic maintenance, repairs and improvements as required, not only will you continue to occupy a premises that meets the needs of your daily business activities, but that will also have continued to grow in value as time moves on. The point? Whether it’s HR or customer service, make sure you’re undertaking maintenance, repairs and improvements to all aspects of your business perpetually. If you’re not, someone else is, and it won’t be long before they overtake you.

This principal is also true of your cognition and mental fortitude, and can be thought of in much the same way as the analogy with the muscle. If you don’t feed your mind, it will wither and die.

“Education isn’t something you can finish.”

– Isaac Asimov

Failing to feed your mind by learning new skills, seeing new sights, and engaging in new experiences is a surefire way to result in atrophy of the mind. The more you learn, and the more effort you put into understanding the World around you, the more motion you give to your thoughts and creativity and it is this force of motion that breeds life. Want to feel more alive? Get more motion into your thoughts! Think about more things, and think about them in different ways and alternate perspectives – do it as often as possible. Nurture your natural thought processes to promote growth of the mind, and to increase it’s capacity for learning and understanding. The more we learn, the more we understand. The more we understand, the less we realise we know and the more we want to learn! A beautiful feedback loop, and a powerful one at that. The more you use your mind, the sharper a tool it will become and the more potential power you will realise that can then be used to really move the dial in your life and the World at large.

You’re either growing or you’re dying – which one are you?

What Black Belt Means to Me

“The martial arts are ultimately self-knowledge. A punch or a kick is not to knock the hell out of the guy in front, but to knock the hell out of your ego, your fear, or your hang-ups.”

– Bruce Lee

I began my training in the martial art of Tae Kwon Do in July 2013 – I remember it clearly, as the weekend I had planned to attend my first lesson was the weekend of the 2013 TAGB TKD World Championships. As a result, my first introductory lesson was the weekend after the big competition due to all the students and instructors attending the event. My instructor to be, Mr Martin Williams 6th Dan, told me about the event and that his club was closed that weekend due to their participation, but that I should come along and have a go the weekend after. I vividly remember thinking to myself at the time that there was no way I’d be competing, let alone be competing at the World Championships; the biggest event in the organisation.

I was very clear about my intentions going in; I wasn’t going to fight and I wasn’t going to compete. I was a complete pacifist at the time, and my motivation for wanting to give it a go was simply that it looked like fun and I thought I’d be good at it. In truth, the motivating factor that made me get up off my arse and find a club was that someone had posted a classic Bruce Lee video to my Facebook wall, and it inspired me to desire that level of greatness. It was a compilation of his different skills, from lighting matchsticks in mid air with nunchucks and his infamous 1-inch punch. From the moment I concluded my search for local clubs, bizarrely finding Mold to be my closest which is a good 45 minute drive from where I live, fate took control and the rest is history.

To say that Tae Kwon Do has changed my life would be an understatement of epic proportions. I met my soul mate through my club, and we now have two beautiful children together. It’s changed my whole outlook on, and approach to, life. It’s made me a better person in a multitude of ways, and for all the change it’s brought to my life I am truly grateful. Further to all that, it has provided me with a close knit circle of thoroughly decent human beings who are dedicated to helping raise each other up to higher and higher standards, with perpetual dedication, love and support. The people I have met through Tae Kwon Do are some of the most wonderful human beings on the planet, and I am privileged to call them my friends.

The most important thing that Tae Kwon Do has done for me that has been a catalyst for my personal growth has been to introduce me to myself. I know who I am better today than any prior point in my life. I know who I am, and more importantly I know the components of who I am. I know my fears and insecurities intimately, even as deeply as I know my capacity for love, compassion and servitude. I am rounded as a human being because of the deep level of self-knowledge my art has taught me. I know who I am in good times and bad times, I face adversity on a regular basis and that keeps me hungry and humble. I have such a profound level of respect for the people around me, and I  have a deep level of understanding of vastly different types of people and cultures as a result of the principals behind the punches and kicks I’ve been drilling for the last 3.5 years. As with the words of Bruce Lee in the quote at the start of this blog, the opponent is not the man stood across the ring – it’s the man within.

This is a concept my parents and some of my colleagues struggle to understand. Unless you have engaged in some form of martial art, it’s unlikely you’ve come across the life lessons that teach what is required to understand this. One of my favourite quotes is, ‘adversity introduces a man to himself’, and in my opinion, this couldn’t be more concise or more profound. The truth behind this one statement has the power to shatter your world as you know it… only for it to be reborn like the phoenix from the ashes. You know that people you talk to don’t get it when they say things like, ‘so you like fighting’ or ‘you just like beating people up’ – nothing could be further from the truth. A more accurate appraisal would be that I thrive in testing my level of skill and knowledge in a high risk environment because I know that to fail is to learn, and learning is the only way transmute the current version of myself into something better. I am testing my nerve every time I make myself step into the ring – I am facing my fear and my insecurities with that one simple, defying act. I am fueling the fire of confidence and knowledge of self by relentlessly feeding it my fears, my ego and my insecurities.

This coming April in 2017 marks a penultimate point in my journey to self-knowledge as a man and as a martial artist. This April, I grade for my Black Belt. For most, the minimum amount of time it takes to achieve this is 4 years, largely dependant on how much effort you put in and how often you grade. I have been driven to succeed since day one. Following my first class, I would go home and practise the most basic movements for hours at home to try and get the techniques down for my next lesson so I could turn up ready to learn more. I entered my first competition at yellow belt in October 2013, and came away with two gold trophies for my efforts. So much for never competing…

Today, 3.5 years later, I sit here a current World Champion and British Champion, along with several other titles from regional and national competitions across the country. I am lucky enough to have shelves (yes, plural!) filled with trophies and medals from my last 3 years of competition. I am honoured and privileged to have been taught by some of the best Tae Kwon Do practitioners in the World, often training with or under World and National Champions. The people I have trained with and under the instruction of, have helped me immeasurably to become the man I am today; instructors, students and competitors alike. They have provided the proving ground on which I was able to test myself against the best in the business, and the quality instruction that has guided me along the right path when I have wandered wayward. Everyone around me inspires me, filling me with gratitude; that is a truly beautiful place to be.

Now, I’ve seen a lot of people get their Black Belts over the last 3.5 years, and it’s been a wonderful vicarious experience for me to watch and be a part of their individual journey’s – as they have been, and continue to be, a part of mine. Becoming a black belt means different things to different people. For some it is just something they want for display – like a trophy that they can point to to prove how amazing they are. For others, it is a deeply symbolic achievement that says more about the person within than it necessarily says about their ability to kick people in the face.

For me, being a Black Belt comes with a high level of responsibility to respect and serve those around you; whether you like them or not. It is the difference between existing on a meandering and random trajectory through life, and living with purpose and meaning. It is a reminder that I need to do better tomorrow, regardless of how well I thought I did today. It is my commitment to serve and to make a positive difference in the lives of all who pass through my life. It is commitment to constant and never ending improvement, to mastery and excellence. It is my reminder to never give up, and to see the lesson in everything. It is my heart wrapped around my waist, it is the symbol of passion and purpose that I wear with pride and humility. It is the balance of my calm and my rage, my love and my hate – we are all composed of yin and yang, and it is balancing the two that delivers us to self-knowledge and acceptance of who we are and what we have. It reminds me to be grateful every single day – for the beautiful people in my life, for my health and for the important lessons life teaches us; be they easy or hard. I do not prey for an easier life, I work hard to ensure I have the ability and skills to endure a challenging one as I know that it is through challenge that we grow to become greater versions of ourselves. It is a symbol signifying a deep level of self-knowledge, and of understanding that bridges the chasms between our joys and our fears.

For me, being a Black Belt has nothing to do with the colour, the material or being able to kick people in the face. It represents integrity, perseverance, respect, self-control and courtesy. It represents never giving up, even when you feel like there is no way out, and nowhere to go. It is a deep level of strength more powerful than any muscle could ever be, yet it is as soft as a feather. It is the ability to mould to fit any challenge, and the knowledge that everything in life happens for a reason – each experience a package of lessons ready to be learned.

Yet, despite all this, I know that getting my Black Belt is just the end of the beginning. Like learning to drive and getting your licence, the real learning happens out on the road on your own after you’ve passed your test. That is when you find out what you’re made of.

My journey in Tae Kwon Do and in life has only just begun.

We Are The Wheels Behind Change

My life mission statement has changed an awful lot over the last 18 months.. the first major change being that I now have one! Parallel to the personal shift I have experienced, my professional mission statement and the way I view what I do and the effect that has on the World is also drastically different.

What Are Studio People?

Studio People are the magic behind the orchestra; the bit that everyone knows is there yet very few people pay any attention to. We are the magic that binds all the different instruments and sections together in space and time, with seemless form; we are the conductor. We play a vital role in the show, but nobody sees us. We are the cameras and the lights sitting just out of sight. Our mission is to focus flow, unabated and relentless, forming worlds within worlds as magical people enter spaces built not for them but for their creativity; their burning passion, the fire within. Spaces where anything and everything is possible, where the only limitation is the limitation you choose to impose upon yourself. We recognise that everything we see around us began as an idea, a thought within the mind of humankind – we create spaces where thoughts flow free in the hope that when cultivated and nurtured they will be born unto the World by their creator, set free and let loose to infect the hearts and minds of people from all walks of life; a global pandemic and an unstoppable force for change. It’s the people crazy enough to think they can change the World that do. So I guess we’re in the business of thought hotels; thoughts come in from all different societies, cultures and backgrounds and as we layer them down and play them out we learn new things about ourselves; we begin to understand our place in it all. We see – no, we feel the power of our creative energy touching everything around us, and it is our place in facilitating this internal paradigm shift in people the World over that drives us to do what we do. We are the wheels behind the change, and together we are changing the hearts and minds of the World.

This is what I see when I look at the business my family has worked hard to build over the last two decades, and it is a privilege to be a part of something that has the power and reach to change millions, if not billions, of lives all over the planet. We recognise the importance of content in a World as connected as the one we find ourselves in today, and we believe it is our duty to set people up for success in creating the most inspiring, paradigm shifting content possible. Content has already revolutionised the World, and we haven’t even seen the whole of the tip of the iceberg yet in terms of how connected the World can and will be and how much content we as a species will be hungrily digesting daily. We have the World at our fingertips, and it is our obligation to shape that World into something we can be proud to leave to our children and the generations to come – the content we create and broadcast is the instrument through which the songs of our lives come to life and become physical beings, empowered and tenacious, hungry to make a difference.

Now, if you’d have asked me the same question in the summer of 2015 you would have got a very different answer. I would have told you that we design and build recording studios, but don’t get excited because we’re basically just a glorified construction company. Bit of a difference, huh? Isn’t it amazing the difference clarity of vision and passion can make. I was obviously disillusioned, but why? It was the same business after all. It was because I desperately wanted to find my purpose in life, and I felt like I had none. I was wondering, lost in a World that seemed filled with pain, desperation and corruption. I couldn’t reconcile what I was doing with any higher purpose, and I had fallen prey of social conditioning that led me to believe that business was evil and only served selfish ends. Little did I realise that I was just naive and ignorant, commanding little understanding of, well, anything (apart from music and Tae Kwon Do). I had closed my mind to the the doors of possibility that were there all along, and so the things I saw in the World were just my reflection staring back at me. 

Now that I have this level of clarity, and command a deep understanding of what drives me through my life day by day, I am able to look back and see that there was always a thread that ran through my whole life; a series of events of the same or similar themes that provided clues as to my calling, my purpose. I look back now and see that the subject of my passion and purpose was there all along, I just didn’t see it. Looking back and seeing the dots link together like that never fails to amaze me, and it can be very difficult sometimes to ignore the reality of fate at work – that someone looking over your shoulder, nudging you in the right direction, and delivering you to experiences that you need in order to learn and grow as a human being.

Whatever you do, are doing or are about to do, I cannot understate the importance of finding the fuel for the fire of your passion; it will change your life forever in ways you can’t even begin to imagine. You are never just something, you are everything, you can be anything. It starts with a choice, a decision and massive passion in action every single day – two years ago I worked at a construction company, today I am Managing Director of a company that’s changing the World through content creation by creating spaces that allow people to attain states of flow and inspiration that even the best drugs can’t touch. 

The only thing that changed was me.

You can see more about my family’s business and keep up to date with our progress in working with our clients to change the World by visiting us at www.studiopeople.com – come and say hello a be a part of our mission for change, we would love to hear from you.

Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself

As some of you will know, I have become deeply interested in trading the stock market via instruments like CFD’s and Spread Betting over the last couple of months. Whilst I am still achieving mixed results in terms of my overall profit and loss, one of the most challenging and interesting aspects of trading is the psychology. It is actually the hardest thing to master, and I believe this is true for most things in life. Holding your position on a trade that’s moving against you without giving in to your fear of losing money, or of diminishing any paper profits you might have made on that particular position, takes some serious self control.

I have engaged in trading courses, YouTube videos and books to help me improve on my knowledge of the stock market and how to trade with a consistently profitable system, but one of the books I’m listening to at the moment has really made me think. It’s a book on trading psychology, and aims to enable the reader to become their own trading coach. You can see more information about this book by clicking the following link:

The Daily Trading Coach: 101 Lessons for Becoming Your Own Trading Psychologist (Wiley Trading)

I was listening on my way to Tae Kwon Do training last night, and a very poignant lesson caught my attention and made me think. When trading, as with most things we do in life, we tend to have a running commentary of self talk as we run through our day. That self talk can either be positive or negative depending on our mental state at the time. One thing that tends to be particularly debilitating is negative self talk. Whether you’re berating yourself for missing a turning when driving to work which could potentially make you late, or in the case of the book, have entered into a bad position which results in a losing trade. The observation the author makes in the book is that this self talk tends to be very harsh, and so he suggests the following exercise; pay attention to the self talk going on in your head – observe the mental tone, the language used and the things you are berating yourself for. Now, having observed this negative chatter in some detail, reframe. This is a simple exercise whereby you imagine that instead of saying those things to yourself, a friend or colleague is saying them to you.

For example, you might say something like the following to yourself having missed a crucial turn off to get you to work on time:

“I can’t believe I missed that turning, I’m such an idiot! I drive this way every day and I can’t even get that right! I’m going to be late for work now, and it’s all because I couldn’t even pay attention to my surroundings. I’m going to get in trouble for being late, and be behind on my work because of my stupidity. Nice one.”

Now, this may seem like perfectly normal self talk that occurs when you make a mistake in life, but I think we can all agree that this level of negativity, even in the form of self talk, is far from healthy; it puts us into a totally unresourceful state and we are only at our best when we are in a positive and resourceful state. However, now let’s reframe this situation and imagine that it is your friend who is in the car with you who is saying this to you:

“I can’t believe you missed the turn, you’re such an idiot! You drive this way every day and you still can’t get it right! You’re going to be late for work now and it’s all your fault because you aren’t even capable of paying attention to what’s going on around you. You’re going to be in so much trouble for being late, and you’ll be behind on your work because of your stupidity. Nice one.”

When you flip the roles like this, and imagine a friend or someone close to you saying to you the things you say to yourself, you would be disgusted with the way they had spoken to you and treated you. They’re supposed to be your friend, so why are they putting you down like that? So, the question is this; if you wouldn’t tolerate being spoken to or treated in that way by the people you know, then why do you tolerate it from yourself?

Truth be told, if you have good friends and surround yourself with good people who truly add value to your life, they would never treat you that way. You shouldn’t either! Instead, your friend or colleague would tell you not to worry about it, it was a simple and easy mistake to make and if you’re late you can just say you got stuck in an unexpected bout of traffic. Your boss won’t mind, he’s a decent person, and everyone makes mistakes. It’s early in the morning, and no one is at their best first thing. Don’t sweat it!

A big difference, as I’m sure you’ll agree. Which would you prefer to hear from your friends or colleagues? Decide now, that if that’s the standard you have set for how others treat you, then you should have the same standard for the way you treat yourself. Another way of looking at it would be to ask yourself what you would say to a friend in a similar situation to that which you find yourself, and that which triggered the negative self talk. Observe the differences between what you had been saying to yourself and what you would say to your friend in the same situation; then change your internal dialogue to match what you would say to your friend. There is no good reason to treat yourself worse than you treat those around you, so level the paying field and give yourself the respect you deserve.

Don’t be so hard on yourself! Try the exercise above the next time you face a challenge in your life and you notice your own negative self talk – engage in the role play, and ask yourself if you would accept or tolerate being treated or spoken to in that way by others. If the answer is no, then you shouldn’t be treating yourself that way either.

Everyone makes mistakes in life, it’s a big part of how we learn and grow, but instead of putting ourselves down when we do, we should instead be picking ourselves up, dusting off the dirt and refocusing with determination and positivity. Easier said than done – I know – but nothing worth having in life comes easy, and reframing like this will make a massive difference in your ability to face and deal with adversity in life.

Have a beautiful day everyone – be kind to yourselves, and give yourselves the credit you deserve in both the good times, and the challenging times.