Learn in 5 mins the one amazing life hack that took me 30 years to figure out!

Jesus Christ, Facebook is littered with these at the moment. Granted, that might have something to do with the fact that I keep clicking on all of the ads to see what they’re all about but that’s by the by.

You’ve seen them too though, I’ll bet.

“Fire your boss and work 4 hours a week from home. Naked!”

“Make all your dreams come true by setting up a Shopify store in 10 mins!”

“Learn how this millenialgurupreneur makes $500000 an hour with zero qualifications or skills”

Sounds amazing doesn’t it? Can we really live the life that these people do, with their offices overlooking the water, their sleek chauffeur-driven cars and their total lack of money worries?

Do you know how these people really make their money? By selling their ‘courses’ on how to do this shit to idiots.

If you work 4 hours a week from home naked you’re earning next to nothing. Unless your ‘work’ involves webcams and a team of oily, heavily tattooed plumbers.

If you think your dreams will come true by setting up an online store with no experience, stock or any clue what you’re doing then I hope your dreams are mostly about eating baked beans directly out of the tin and crying.

And if you want to make $500000 an hour with no qualifications or skills then, good news, you CAN do it. But only if you sell all your organs on the black market really fast. The drawback here is that you’ll be dead by the time the cash hits your account.

Fortunately for you, I have figured this one out. Yes, that’s right, I have an ACTUAL answer for you!

I have signed up for countless courses and webinars and listened to guru after guru explain to me why their way is the best way to get everything I ever wanted.

The problem is I don’t have $5000 to take any of their ‘courses’ and even if I did they wouldn’t see a penny out of me. Why?

Because everything I have heard from these people has led me to one inescapable, undeniable conclusion.

That conclusion is that there is only one way that any of us can reliably achieve the things we want to achieve (without resorting to selling our bodies, one way or the other).

This is the one thing that, if you take it on board, can really, truly change your life and make all your dreams come true.

Are you ready?

Here it is, with no strings, no catches, completely and utterly free from me to you.

The amazing life hack that took me (just over) 30 years to figure out.

Stop

Expecting

And

Start

Working

Really

Fucking

Hard

You’re welcome.

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Aaaand we’re back

A few weeks ago now I stopped blogging with a view to going away, rethinking a few things and coming up with some ideas to improve the blog and perhaps add some features.

I started this to try and create something that was accessible and that might help people. I’ve learned a lot about self improvement and personal development over the last couple of years but I know there’s a lot of wishy-washy ideas out there and more than a small amount of bullshit floating around the space.

One of the first things I realised when I took a step back was that I hadn’t done ANY of that and had in fact mostly regurgitated a lot of ideas that, while good in theory, do not accurately reflect how I live my life. Do you know what that makes me? A big fat hypocrite is what it makes me. I think my heart was in the right place with it, but I also think I can do better.

Here’s something I didn’t do during my time away from blogging – come up with some new features. Well, I did, but I ended up throwing them all out in favour of this. This being the new name and theme of the blog. A busy father’s struggle to be better.

Now I know this isn’t going to be for everyone, but it is going to be for some of you. From now on I’ll tell you stories about how I’ve struggled, mostly failed, but occasionally succeeded to fit ideas and approaches to self improvement in to my otherwise fairly hectic life. You may not learn a whole lot, but maybe you’ll get a laugh or two out of it.

As for how often I’ll be posting – as often as I feel like it. I’m busy, you can’t expect too much.

Back in 4 Weeks

Hello followers and fly-ins. This is a short message to let you know that the blog is going to be on hiatus for the next month or so. I couldn’t leave it for this long without saying something though, ya’ll would be worried sick. All 4 of you, panicking for no reason, like parents at a kids party when the birthday boys decides to drop an F bomb.

They’re going to learn swear words and shit eventually. Your nervous laughter and and insistence that the word is not to be repeated only informs the kid that those words are cool and meant for adults so, naturally, they are words they will take every opportunity to use from that point onwards.

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Anyway, panic not, put the sandwich boards down and let me tell you why I’m ducking out for a few weeks. I’ve been posting on here for a couple of months now and it’s been great. Like, really really great. As far as live tests go, this couldn’t have gone better for me personally.

I set out to discover whether what I have to say about my efforts to improve myself has any value for anyone else. Turns out, it does. That’s hugely rewarding in itself, but I think I can do better than that.

Without going in to too much detail I’m taking some time off to work on a more complete content schedule and assess some ideas I have to add more value to the site. My plan is to relaunch in October under a new name and with a new objective.

I do hope you’ll stay tuned. For now, please look after yourselves and others and try not to be too much of a dick the rest of the time.

Cheers

Ben x

Mindweek Mini – Scheduling Update and Thoughts on Flow

Firstly I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who is following, reading and sharing the blog. It means a lot to have this support and I’ve really enjoyed hearing about some of the things I’ve helped inspire people to do. Please keep feedback and comments coming!

Today I want to let you know about some changes I’m making to the frequency and nature of the posts on here. The ‘Midweek Mini’ will be replaced by a couple of slightly longer and more detailed posts at the start and end of the week and the longer form posts will come every couple of weeks rather than weekly.

The thinking behind this is that it will allow me to cover more topics in reasonable detail and elaborate on the most interesting and helpful stuff with less time pressure to put out 2000+ words a week. We’ll see how we get on though!

The other topic I wanted to broach with you today is flow. I’m not talking about flow in the sense of what Biggie, Eminem and Jay Z can do with their mouths, I’m talking about a concept that has been around for thousands of years.

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Flow is described by the man who literally wrote the book on it, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, as “A state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter”.

Those who have achieved a state of Flow report that it produces a feeling of intense concentration, effortlessness and control. They say they get immediate feedback on the task at hand with a reduced sense of time passing and any self-doubt or self-consciousness disappear. Sounds nice doesn’t it?

I’ve been aware of Flow in this sense for a while but keep hearing more and more about how it has helped sports stars, business people and artists get ‘in the zone’ and tap in to unrealised potential to maximise their performance.

As I’ve heard it talked about more and more, I’ve gotten more and more interested. The more I learn about it, the more interested I get. I’ll go in to more detail on this in my next post.

How Mindset, Perspective and Focus can dramatically increase your motivation to get healthy

I used to work out a lot when I was younger. My goal was to look the way Brad Pitt does in Fight Club. I never managed to do it, probably because I’d go to the gym for a few months and then get side-tracked, feel like I wasn’t putting on muscle fast enough or decide that I needed that gym membership money for delicious, delicious beer instead.

Recently though, I’ve gotten back in to it with a completely different perspective. I’m a Dad of 3 and they’re all boys and they won’t stop getting bigger and stronger. So I’m back in the gym, making sure I can keep up with them.

I’m highly motivated and feel stronger and happier in myself than I have for a long time. My perspective on the gym is totally different now than when I was a younger man and I want to talk to you about why that’s a good thing and what I’ve learned from the experience.

Modern society is obsessed with looks. We might not want to admit it, but we are. I do love the Marvel films (and to a far, far lesser extent, the DC ones) but can’t deny that the superhero movie genre has helped to promote an image of both men and women that is far removed from what most of us will ever achieve.

On our TVs, reality shows and music videos are filled with buff dudes and women that look like they need a slap and a burger (to use my wife’s phrase), with the songs themselves littered with references to various body parts being somehow described as both “tight” and “thick” at the same time. Like a well-wrapped gammon joint?

One of the most popular shows in the UK (and a few other countries too, thanks ITV) is Love Island. The show consists of a bunch of single men and women, all near perfectly proportioned, being thrown together on a hot island somewhere, wearing very few clothes and awkwardly trying to fuck each other for a few weeks. I don’t watch it, but I think that’s the gist.

If you’ve ever Googled anything about exercise of gym memberships, chances are every other ad you see on Facebook or YouTube will be someone who looks like they were carved out of solid marble telling you about their way to look like they do, whether it’s CrossFit, calisthenics or that awful Huel stuff. You know why they call it Huel don’t you? It’s meant to mean Human Fuel. That’s right – IT’S MADE OUT OF HUMANS.

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So what do normal folks like us do in the face of all this human ‘perfection’? We look at them and we look at ourselves and we think “I should look like them”. So we join a gym or get some workout videos to do at home or try and go for a good old fashioned run. The most popular of these options would be joining a gym.

Fun fact: in the UK alone we waste over £500m every year on unused gym memberships. 11% of people with an active gym membership say they haven’t been FOR A YEAR. Over 20% say they’ve been 3 times or LESS in the last year. It’s worse in the US where one article I found suggested that a whopping 67% of gym memberships in the US have NEVER been used at all.

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Clearly there is a problem here. Huge numbers of people who sign up with the best intentions waste a lot of money and probably end up even more despondent about their looks than they did before. Why does this happen?

Well, the most common reasons include; not getting the results they want (be it losing weight, tightening up or putting on muscle) self-consciousness, boredom and lack of energy and enthusiasm. What do these reasons say to you? That exercising is hard and people are lazy? Whilst I’m not going to disagree with you, I think these reasons tell a different story. I think people are signing up to gyms for the wrong reasons.

I’m going to propose that there are two main categories of people that sign up for gyms, and if you’re in the first category then you could well end up being amongst the ones that waste their cash on unused memberships. If you’re in the second category, however, you’re much more likely to stick with it in the face of any of the aforementioned circumstances.

The first category of people sign up because they want to look different, more like the sculpted and airbrushed versions of people they see everywhere they look. They buy in to the fact that if they follow the latest fad diet or work out like Chris Hemsworth for 4 weeks then they’ll be sorted. This doesn’t happen, obviously. It was never going to either because they have jobs or families or other real life shit going on and can’t train 16 hours a day and buy all the ‘magic Hollywood syringes*’ they want. And then they give up.

*Disclaimer: I am not accusing Chris Hemsworth of anything other than being the buffest cyclops since that one at the end of Hercules.

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The second category of people approach exercise differently, and I’ll reference one of my earlier posts here about Mindset. These guys have a growth mindset towards exercising. They are not training just to lose weight or look like a superhero, they are training to run a marathon, to get promoted from the reserves to the first team, to be healthier, live longer or just for the pure enjoyment of it.

Compared to those training for looks, people who are training for growth reasons give only tiny fractions of shits about how they (or other people) might look, because they are much more focused on their journey than anything else. Training for aesthetic reasons places your focus on the wrong thing. Rather than train parts of your body, you’re much better off training your determination, your strength, speed, agility, endurance, grit, focus and commitment instead.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to exercise just because you want to look different. I’m saying that it’s much harder to maintain this type of training over time, and refocusing on progression and self-improvement makes it less likely that you’ll give up for the reasons listed.

Let’s have another look at the reasons for quitting I listed earlier and think about how they are perceived differently when your focus is on improving in a non-aesthetic way.

Not getting the results you want

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OK I’m not going to beat you over the head too much more with this but it’s worth saying again that if you’re training to look different and you don’t look any different after a month, you’ll probably want to throw in the towel.

The wonderful thing about training an aspect of yourself though, whether it’s your strength, your speed over 5 kilometers or how many sit ups you can do before you shit yourself, is that you can measure exactly the results you are getting, and you have the ability to step away from it if you’re not moving in the right direction and think about what else you could try.

When you ask yourself “what else could I try?” you’d rather the answer wasn’t “liposuction” right?

Self-consciousness

Training for growth or progression really helps to minimise the extent to which you feel self-conscious about training. Trying to exercise when you’re surrounded by people who look more like how you want to look than you do can really bum you out.

But exercising around a bunch of people who can’t possibly know how you are performing vs yourself from last week means you don’t really give a shit how they look or what they think. You’re focused on you, not them.

Boredom

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Every time you push that extra rep out at the end of a set, every time you feel strong enough to add another little plate to the bar, every time you shave a few seconds off your personal best, every time you sprint up a flight of stairs, every time you stop and realise just how healthy and confident you feel.

I’ll take “exciting little moments you can experience when training to get better at something” for 200 please.

Lack of energy and enthusiasm

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I’ll also take “moments that help maintain your enthusiasm for training” for 500! See above.

Enthusiasm shouldn’t be a big problem as you track and monitor your progress, but lack of energy could be an issue still. Not as much so if you’re training for looks, as this type of training can make you more likely to lean towards overtraining if you’re really going for it, but you’ll probably still feel knackered from time to time.

This is where the mindset and perspective of training for progression can benefit you. You can take a week off to recuperate and know that you’re doing it to benefit your overall training goals. You won’t experience guilt from not working out and you’re more likely to take the initiative on things like extra rest (going to bed earlier) or changing up your diet to increase your energy levels as those things also fall in line with your mission to improve whatever characteristic you are training for.

Here it is in a nutshell: if you are training to look a certain way then you are more likely to give up, but if you are training to be a certain way, you are much more likely to succeed. Competing against every idealised image out there is too big of a task for most people. It is de-motivating, bordering on depressing. Competing against yourself, by contrast, is measurable, focused and empowering. Plus you always win, one way or the other.

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So there you have it. If you’re wondering what my training programme looks like, it’s not complicated but it is highly focused. I do 15 minutes of cardio to warm up, 15 minutes of stretches for flexibility and preventing injuries, then I follow Joe Wendler’s 5-3-1 programme but condense it so I do two exercised per session over two sessions each week, rather than four sessions per week each focused on one exercise. Then some core work for stability and warm down and I’m out in about an hour and fifteen.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether you already use this approach to exercise or whether it’s something you think could benefit you. If you want to find more information on the Wendler programme I mentioned, you can find it here.

Midweek Mini: 5 Questions you should ask yourself regularly

I’m still catching up on myself a little here so please no one point out that it’s actually not midweek any more and we’re approximately 70% of the way though the working week here in the UK because I know that already. I worked it out on the calculator and everything.

Today I want to get you thinking about some questions you should put to yourself every now and then. This doesn’t have to be a daily practice (although it can be) but at least a couple of times a month.

If you’re reading this, I assume that you have something that you’re working towards achieving. Personal goals and ambitions help establish meaning and structure in our lives and a body in motion tends to stay in motion according to my main man Newton.

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With that mind, make sure you keep your body (and mind) in motion by regularly asking yourself the following questions.

1. Am I closer to achieving my goals and ambitions than I was the last time I asked myself this question?

This is key, if you’re not moving forward with your plans you’re going backwards. There is no standing still.

2. What mistakes have I made and what can I learn from them?

It’s important to remember that mistakes do not define you, they merely present an opportunity to refine your methods.

3. What successes have I had and how can I build on them?

Repeating what works makes total sense and helps you get better and achieve your goals faster.

4. What more could I be doing to move closer to achieving my goals and ambitions?

Always look for ways to do more. Within reason obviously, you still need to have some down time.

5. What more could I be doing to help others move closer to achieving theirs?

Helping others achieve their goals won’t directly help you with yours, but you reap what you sow and if someone has an opportunity to support you in the future, they’re much more likely to do so if you’ve helped them. Plus it’s nice to be nice.

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Be honest with yourself when asking these questions. It’s not nice when someone lies to you. It’s worse when you lie to others. But to lie to yourself jus crazy and will always do you more harm than good.

What to do when you Fall off the Horse (and you will).

Right, first things first, this post is late. It’s crashing through the front door at 3.30 in the morning when it promised it was only going out for “a couple of drinks with the work lot” and would be “back at 11 at the absolute latest I swear”.

Why is it late? Because I fell off the horse. No, I didn’t get smashed and come home in the early hours making shitty excuses like I lost track of time or my phone ran out of battery or they made me do shots, what am I supposed to do? Those bastards.

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I fell off the horse that I sat proudly atop when I started this blog. The one I’ve been carefully feeding and grooming and training for the past 2 years. That horse is my mission to constantly work to improve every aspect of myself.

Your horse could be a diet, an objective or outcome-based goal or a different attitude or outlook. Change and growth is not easy. Very few things worth doing in life are easy.

This isn’t the first time I’ve fallen off the horse and it won’t be the last. Chances are you’ll do the same thing a few times along the way too.

I’m going to share with you my 4 step plan for getting back on my horse, maybe there’s something there you can use if you have a shitty day, week, month or whatever to get back on track.

1. Allow yourself to fall off the horse

This is the most important thing, and it’s something I wasn’t always very good at. You’ve got to have some compassion for yourself and realise that you’re human and getting off track is just part of the journey.

If you can’t allow yourself the odd failure then you’ll end up allowing yourself to slump back in to inertia. Then self-doubt will creep in and strangle your ambition and you’ll end up going backwards.

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You’re better than that, as long as you want to be.

Chalk it up to experience (as they say) and resolve to get back on that horse as quickly as possible using the rest of the steps below.

2. Re-establish your mindset

So once you’ve made friends with yourself again you’ll want to re-establish your mindset. Remember the reasons why you started pursuing your goal or decided to try things a little differently. Write them down if that helps.

Compare the feelings you had before you decided to get back on the wagon (disappointment, frustration, fear) with the feelings you had when you were on it (excitement, enthusiasm, motivation). Decide which person you want to be and you’ll be ready.

3. Reinstate your routine

Just like when you first start out chasing ambition, don’t wait for motivation to poke its head out from behind a tree and blow you a kiss. Don’t let past behaviours or the opinions of others hold you back.

Maybe you used to get up and go for a run in the morning 3 times a week but haven’t done so for a month? There is no other option save just getting up and doing it again one morning. Your body will resist at first, sure. You’ll have to drag it kicking and screaming out the door the first few times, but it gets easier every time.

World's Toughest Rodeo
1/13/2012, Wells Fargo Arena

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Perhaps you’ve been dieting for months but had a blowout week or two? The office summer bash falling on the same week that Linda turns ‘Naughty 40’ AND your old drinking buddies are in town for the weekend? Yeah, you’re not getting through that lot without drinking enough to fill the Adriatic are you?

To be honest it’s probably done you some good blowing off steam like that, but once you start counting those calories and watching your booze intake again you’ll notice very quickly how much better you feel and why you’re glad you only see your old drinking buddies every 6 months now.

Or it could be that you’ve been doing really well managing stress, anxiety or anger issues but have let yourself regress to a point where you’re not in control of it any more. That’s fine too. You’re waging a titanic war and are bound to lose the odd battle here and there.

If this is the case, go back to basics with managing it and be honest with those closest to you so they can support you too. I’m not a mental health professional so I’m not going to go in to detail here but I do have to keep an eye on my anger and when I feel like I’m starting to lose control of it I focus on other things to try and direct that energy elsewhere.

For example – if I start getting angry at my kids, I try and focus on how much I love them and how amazing they are, so I start from there and any anger gets swallowed up by that love.

If I start to feel angry about stuff I feel I’m missing out on, I focus on feeling gratitude for what I have and the anger is dwarfed by that gratitude.

If I start to feel angry or frustrated about work, I focus on trying to make changes and helping those around me instead. If you’re in a job that’s making you angry and you don’t feel like there’s anything you can do to change things, then fucking quit and find another job.

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4. Shut the doors and windows

This is the final thing you need to do in order to get fully saddled up again. The phrase ‘shut the doors and windows’ comes from a great little book about selling called ‘The Wideboys Handbook’ that I read a few years back. Don’t let the title put you off, if you work in sales it’s definitely worth a look and you can probably pick it up for about a quid on Amazon now.

What I mean when I say ‘shut the doors and windows’ is that you should find a way to stop yourself falling off the horse in the same way again.

This may mean that you stop hanging out with certain people as much as you did before. It may mean you resolve to not keep junk food in the house. It may mean committing to developing a new behaviour to help train you out of old tendencies.

Do whatever you feel you need to do to minimise the risk of this happening again. This is a really positive step as it turns the whole episode in to a learning experience and can improve your chances of success dramatically in the long run.

So there it is, my 4 step plan for getting back on the horse. Again, this is almost certainly going to happen to you at some point if you’re pursuing a self-improvement type objective. It’s not the end of the world, you can jump back on and rejoin the rodeo in no time.

Now go ride ’em, cowboy!

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