This question is an opportunity to pause and understand ourselves better, otherwise life sort of runs away and our dreams can get left behind. Instead of striving through life and gasping for change we can discover a path where we are connected and follow our intuition. I see it as a stepping stone towards clarity and motivation.Read More
If you are self employed or running a small business you’ll know that around the Christmas period or holidays in general you still end up doing quite a lot of work.
Often there is nobody else covering your emails or phone calls and you feel you need to be "on it", especially if you are in a start up phase. You want to be giving your business as much attention as possible - you certainly don’t want to be missing out on any lead. Someone who can become a paying customer is a very valuable commodity...Read More
My world has been improved this week by the following three things...
1. Ariana Huffington takes her meetings while hiking!
Tim Ferriss' podcast chat with Arian Huffington has been an absolute highlight of my week. She is a truly extraordinary woman whose achievements are remarkable. Not the least of which is the fact that she has started having "hiking meetings" - scheduling meetings whilst she hikes, whether on the phone or in person.
You can download or listen live to the podcast here.
2. 9 Life lessons to make you laugh and learn.
If you don't know what to do with your existence, look no further. I really enjoyed this short speech from Australian comedian, Tim Minchin. It is full of pearls of wisdom wrapped up in a good dose of humour. Watch the video below, courtesy of Goalcast.
3. Knitting 'Knockers' for Kenyan Breast Cancer Survivors
I was really quite touched by this story, illustrating the capacity of the human mind for resourcefulness and compassion. A group of breast cancer survivors in Kenya is knitting prostheses for women who have been affected by the disease.
Check out the video here care of the BBC.
Last weekend I was given an award by the Outdoor Writers & Photographers Guild. It was a great honour and I am delighted that my blog has been recognised as something which promotes the outdoors and inspires others to get outside.
That is after all, one thing I would like it to do.
It has been just over a year since I started to write this thing in earnest and any form of encouragement, from awards to a friendly comment from wife, is very welcome.
Yes, but do you make any money?
The other day on Twitter someone asked me if I make money from the Armchair Mountaineer. Although I have been asked to write a couple of articles and I make a little trickle of cash from affiliate links, any revenue this web site brings me is very much in the "beer money” category.
But I am ok with this. For now. It doesn't mean I am not serious about it but I recognise that I must earn my stripes, I must grow my following and I must build something that can be monetised through a receptive and engaged audience, gear reviews or perhaps simply volume of traffic.
I didn’t start out with a curated plan as to how I would earn from it, but I always had an idea to write a book about my love of the outdoors and its role in my life re-design. It is a blessing that I am not in a hurry. It is a blessing that I have other means of income and it is also a blessing that this blog is as much about inspiring myself, and others like me, as it might one day be about making money.
The outdoor industry; this "business sector”, for want of a better phrase, is not renowned for its millionaires. But I have been struck, in this year of re-designing my life, that I have seldom come across a fellowship of friendlier, more helpful people. The outdoor community is by far the richest I have known in terms of health and spirit.
Here's to another few months of blogging, for love, not money.
The Eurockéennes de Belfort festival was a chance to wind down, meet my best mates from the UK and introduce them to a new group of friends. It was a great time. We listened to some amazing music. We got hammered. We woke up and repeated the process.
One afternoon, before the music got going, we were lounging around in the grass slurping on an ice cream, bellies full of tartiflette. The sky was a sort of lifeless grey and the weather, which had been fairly clement up until then, was on the turn. But it didn’t matter. In the way that things don’t when you feel you have no cares in the world.
As we lay there a diminutive woman approached us and over my shoulder I heard a rough, slightly throaty voice “excuse me mate, where did you get that ice cream?”Read More
Since I first toyed with the idea of redesigning my life, in fact probably even a little before that, I started to change the way I do things. I have spoken before about how the chance to do the Three Peaks Challenge with some close friends, back in the summer of 2015 was a kind of catalyst in my evolving into the person I am now - happier and healthier in mind and body.
Since that moment I have been trying to find opportunities to get outdoors and to be adventurous in and around work, home life and even on the kind of holidays that, on the face of it, are not so adventurous.Read More
Someone put a request out on Twitter this week for some help with their WordPress site. Immediately I replied suggesting simply to get someone else to do the required work, and this is for two reasons;
- One, because I think it makes sense to outsource certain things to those who know better and will do them more quickly.
- Two, because your time can often be spent doing more “profitable” things.
Almost nobody here lives in Serbia. Sitting close to our table are Australian Serbs, Swedish Serbs, American Serbs, French Serbs and us, I suppose. I guess we fit into this category although I never think of Zorica and Emma (my wife an daughter) in such terms.
There are two aspects of this that intrigue me. The first is an obvious demonstration that only those who have moved abroad and done well are in a position to afford such a place.
Secondly I cannot help but allow my mind to wander and to imagine what kind of lives they have "at home" or do they perhaps still call this land home - the one they abandoned in search of prosperity and security for their family?Read More
In late 2016 I decided to quit the rat race and redesign my life in a way that was more satisfying, interesting and adventurous both in my personal and professional life. I didn't even know how to accomplish the large and vague objective of "living better"!
Here is an update on the journey so far.Read More
One of the greatest things about quitting the rat race to redesign my life is the chance to work from different locations. Of course I am a father and a husband so I am at the mercy of my daughter’s education and the ability of my wife to have the same flexibility as me.
Now, as I type these words I am sitting in Amelie, a charmingly shabby little bar in Belgrade, drinking a coffee, half an eye on the world strolling by seen through a tatty net curtain.Read More
A few days ago I had a dark day. Dark like those I had before I quit the rat race to try to live a different lifestyle.
I felt anxious and distinctly under the weather. One interesting project I am involved in suddenly looked a lot more daunting. It appeared as if it would not get off the ground for a lot longer than I thought. I was frustrated with a couple of other non-work related matters. Perhaps the sky was grey…
Then it struck me that these were largely incidental. What had really happened is that I had a conversation with Cathy O'Dowd (first woman to summit Everest from both sides and exceptional motivational speaker)...Read More
It is 3 months since I quit the rat race to live and work in a slightly less conventional manner. Last Thursday I was flying home from a work trip (something I have not done for some time) and it got me thinking about how I manage my time and what I fill my days with and perhaps most importantly where my priorities lie...Read More
On my run the other day I was listening to a recent Tim Ferriss podcast. This particular episode was a simple Q and A with Matt Mullenweg from Automatic (Wordpress et al). One thing he talks about (prompted by a listener question) is some of the reasons for success and specifically that there are no guarantees.
He mentions that one of the reasons he has been successful is resilience.Read More
I say my back yard - it could be your back yard.
Some time ago I wrote a blog post on the benefit of longer term travel planning on my mental health and my family’s happiness. This still rings true and barely a day passes by when one of us doesn’t mention forthcoming trips to Italy, Spain or Thailand. However the only downside to this wanderlust is that home tends to be neglected. We fail to see what is around us because we are craving what is further afield.Read More
Last week my life changed. Today, instead of being in an office I find myself at 9:30 am drinking a coffee with my wife, having taken my daughter to school. Shortly I shall go for a run across some Cambridgeshire fields but first I feel I must write this.
When I started writing a blog a few months ago it was simply a way of finding a reason to write and to reconnect with my personal interests. It changed rapidly and grew into a website. The subject of it was always going to be based on my love of the outdoors and mountains in particular, but I did not envisage how it might evolve and grow into a project designed, one day, to make a living. Or perhaps I didn't dare to think this.
How will it make a living? Well I’m not entirely sure yet but I hope it will help others in Finding Inspiration in Mountains and Wilderness.
But, as of today I am working almost full time on The Armchair Mountaineer. I have shelved my other full-time employment. I have left the rat-race and whilst I continue to do consultancy work and other entrepreneurial projects, I am choosing carefully. This web site is now my main "employer" in terms of time, albeit one that doesn't pay! I am sure that in due course I will write more about the reasons for my decision to drastically change tack and about the crucial support from my wife in taking this decision.
I am looking at a future filled with new challenges, many of which I hope will not only be outside the office but actually in the great outdoors, from longer distance travel to weekend micro-adventures.
It's a long road but it is leading me where I want to go.
Yesterday the traffic to the site was 15. After nearly 20 years working with online businesses I understand that this is not quite enough to monetise. However what the site is doing successfully is reconnecting me with the things I love; the wilderness, the outdoors and mountains.
For too long I have neglected these passions and it took a mixture of occupational burn-out, a dissatisfaction with the often inflexible formats of working life and some inspiring people to push me back to focus on what brings me pleasure. I can’t help feeling it is a point I could have arrived at sooner and with a clearer head but such is life. The important thing I feel is that I reached a fork in the road and I chose the less-trodden path.
I would like to be clear that this does not mean I have lost my appetite for hard work. I have set up my own businesses in the past and been reasonably successful. The entrepreneurial spirit in me is still alive and well.
However, now I am looking at a future filled with new adventures and challenges for myself and my family, many of which I hope will not only be outside the office but actually in the great outdoors, from longer distance travel to weekend micro-adventures.
Right, time to get my trail running shoes on. For those interested below is a list and some notes on the people that inspired me to make a drastic life change.
Who has inspired me?
Escape the City - website - @escthecity
Escape the City describe their mission as being “To help 1,000,000 people find work that they love”. Their communities (tribes) give like minded people the chance to exchange ideas and garner support and learnings from each other. They also have a programme helping people engineer a career change all aimed at Escaping the City and doing something out of the desire and passion to do it. This may mean teaching English in Africa or launching some tech start up. Escape the City provides not just coaching to help the kind of transformation I have been looking to do but also effectively supplies a "safety net” of like-minded individuals to spur you on.
Now, here’s the kicker; above is my understanding because in truth I never actually "used" Escape the City. I signed up. I thought long and hard about it and I decided it was worth the money, but in the end, unfortunately, the timing wasn't right. I apologise to the founders for not having supported them financially but, as daft as it may seem, the thought of such a thing as Escape the City existing fills me with confidence, as if a safety net were there. If I get something wrong in my new life I can go to them and give it another go with renewed encouragement to find that thing that I love. I am not alone.
Tim Ferriss - 4-Hour Work Week - @tferriss
When a friend (and business partner) of mine gave me a copy of The 4-Hour Work Week I was very cynical. Like many people self-help of any sort was something of a con, in my mind. Ironically it was at a time in my life when I really needed it. Anyway when I eventually got around to reading this book, it caused me to change a few of my working ways and inspired me to concentrate on aspects of my life that were important to me.
"Forget the old concept of retirement and the rest of the deferred-life plan"
Whilst I still think a lot of the ideas are out of reach for many I found by taking the elements from the book that fit my life and my aims I was able to streamline certain aspects of my work, personal life and to focus better on what really matters to me. What is particularly poignant to me is the principle of finding a way to do the things you enjoy. I have employed this in many small ways to avoid the "deferred-life plan" which so many of us tend to follow.
For more details on what I took from it you can read a blog post here.
Sarah Williams - Tough Girl Challenges - @_TOUGH_GIRL
Sarah Williams is the host of the Tough Girl Podcast which is aimed at inspiring women to greater challenges through her interviews with… inspiring women of course. Now, it is not actually her interviews that have inspired me, although plenty have been interesting. Sarah used to work as banker in London but after eight years she left her job. like me she says she wasn’t either “happy or fulfilled”.
I think I came across her podcast more than a year ago and it is the occasional mention of her own story as well as similar tales from some of her guests that actually helped inspire me to think about changing my own life.
My friend Dan.
Sadly you don’t all know my friend Dan. He is a singular-minded individual who has had the strength of character to follow certain dreams and aspirations that have led him to live an interesting and admirably unconventional life. I have not asked him if he is fulfilled. I don’t know if he has any regrets about the path he has taken but I do know that he has done things that many would not have the courage to do - me included. From walking the length of the Pyrenees, the GR20 in Corsica, the Lycian Way in Turkey or travelling in India, living in the French Alps, sailing around Thailand or taking up open water swimming just because... the list of his adventures is long and, as he looks towards joining a sailing trip across the Atlantic later in the year, it doesn't look as if he has run out of ideas.
As you can see from this brief summary some years ago he embarked on a life driven by an appetite for discovery, of the world and of the individual. The safety net of the world one knows can also be stifling. By removing himself from it he has been on many an outdoor and travel adventure that has made him grow into an inspirational person to me. He has run, jumped and plunged into life and in doing so I am sure he has challenged himself in ways he never imagined he would. Or perhaps I do him a disservice, perhaps he knew exactly how he wanted to challenge himself. Whatever the truth is he has set an example to me of what is possible and helped rekindle the smouldering embers of my own passion for outdoor adventure.
Let the fire burn bright.
Sometimes it is the right moment to move onto new challenges. Often people find themselves bogged down in security. I don’t just mean financial security, but also secure in their knowledge and their professional field when perhaps they might find happiness elsewhere. Maybe there is potential still to be unlocked.
There is so much to be learnt in a new job and accompanying such learning is considerable degree of uncertainty. Everything is often foreign to the new employee, from the daily details of the work to be done, to the people and policies in the "new company". Whether we like to admit it or not the nearer we get to it the more daunting a proposition it can be. However it should be viewed as an extraordinary opportunity. After all, we all started somewhere.Read More
Has there ever been a more stressful time than the present? There is so much vying for our attention in the modern world and there is so much peripheral “noise” and pressure weighing directly on individuals that it seems any small changes we can make that may, in their turn, reap wider benefits to our psychological health should be considered. This is one small change I have adopted.
BOOK NOW!Read More
This week I am posting about Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Work Week, simply because I have recently got into his podcast and it took me back to re-reading one or two chapters from the book. There is in fact not a lot I can say that has not already been said about this book but I can illustrate briefly my experience.
It was given to me by a friend who recommended it highly. I said thank you, flicked through it and put it on a shelf.
For 3 years.Read More
The other day I read an astonishing letter from Clementine Churchill to Winston, in which his darling Clemie advised him on his management style. She ends the letter like this:
"...you won't get the best results by irascibility and rudeness. They will breed either dislike or a slave mentality - (Rebellion in War time being out of the question!)."
Does this endure in business?
One would imagine instinctively that this style (if one can call it that) of management is destined to fail immediately but it can actually be very enduring. Those who rebel leave quickly but a large number of people get used to it - they become enslaved, they cease to question and they follow orders - underneath there is often dislike but you may see a kind of Stockholm Syndrome develop.
I am not talking about the pressures of war, or the oppression of a totalitarian country. I am talking about Western Europe, the developed world and multi-million pound businesses.
I remember years ago witnessing from a distance how destructive and limiting this kind of management can be and it amazes me how enslaved employees can become, by a senior manager who operates through fear and humiliation.
Divide & Rule
The typical Dictator - let’s call him or her Dictator - has an enormous amount of energy and spends a good deal of it in ensuring there is limited communication between employees. He plays one off against another by talking up the individual to whom he is speaking and denigrating others (he will do this to everyone - you are not special).
Dividing people kills communication and creates a dependency on the figure of the Dictator. He is immediately the employees only source of praise, knowledge and help.
He can now control everything, from strategy to operations and do everything the way he sees it. Given a decisive and brilliant Dictator this can work, for a time. But even with these abilities there is a ceiling to the success this Dictator can have. Growth is limited. Now this is not to say an organisation run like this cannot grow into a reasonably sized company but it will never get out of the SME bracket to join the big players.
Time is limited.
And here is why. The simple truth is that there is a limited amount of work one person can do. The Dictator is incapable of giving responsibility to others, although a particular trait is that he never takes any blame - preferring instead to use blame as a tool to divide his staff. If such a company does not adapt for growth (and this involves much more than installing a middle level of management, but also fundamentally changing the culture within the organisation) its time is limited and it is destined to do one of two things.
a) It will die.
b) It will plateau and when the Dictator runs out of energy... it will die.
So, you get the picture. It will die. Who cares? says the Dictator, he doesn't see this and has done everything right in his mind. He has given people work, which incidentally he often sees almost as an act of benevolence on his part. He has in his mind been a success.
Creating something of value requires other people.
Whether or not Winston Churchill took his wife’s advice we may not know* but he was operating in a global war, under the threat of invasion, bombardment, tyranny and he held the lives of millions of people in his hands. I will excuse him some "rudeness". He was both decisive and brilliant but even his time was limited.
To create something of great and lasting value does require individual vision and brilliance, but most of all it requires other people. Continued growth requires a healthy organisation not just a healthy balance sheet.
*A Churchill scholar may indeed know this.