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July 11, 2020

I think if we are to undertake any sort of creative activity, it is vital to be accepting, and ideally, embracing, of our current level of proficiency.

This year I’ve been writing songs, solo, for pretty much the first time in my life. I have found that the experience of doing so can go in one of two directions.

In the best-case scenario, it’s the best fun in the world. I go along with whatever ideas come to me, without judgement, and it feels more like play time than it does anything else. And, crucially, I am unconcerned with the quality of the song at the end of it. I don’t even really think about it. All I think about it is how fun the process has been.

In the worst-case scenario, I don’t follow any ideas through to the end. I start something, decide it’s not good enough, try something else, decide I don’t like that either, and the cycle continues until I put down the guitar, give up, and conclude, in an utterly miserable mood, that song writing isn’t for me.

What causes the worst-case...

July 2, 2017

Someone I spoke to yesterday used the phrase "being a slave to his own self-importance." It encapsulated something I've been thinking about this week.

I am still fitting in some teaching around the days that I'm not working at Founders Pledge, and this week I put on a drum concert at one of the schools.

In anticipation of this concert I had been feeling incredibly anxious. I worried that my internship had been a distraction, that I hadn't put enough prep into it, and that the performances would be poor. 

But at some point I realised that the reason for all this anxiety was because I was worried about what people would think about me. Would they think I was a terrible teacher? Would they think I had neglected the job?

And I had to think to myself - what is the actual purpose was of this concert?

To give the pupils a buzz from getting up onstage and performing for their friends. To give them an opportunity to build some confidence and step outside their comfort zones. To hopefully put a...

June 18, 2017

It is far too easy in modern society to feel as though we are failing, and popular scales by which we measure success are to blame.

Wealth & status have long been the most common metrics. Thankfully, many people dismiss the idea, mostly due to the fact that we have learnt that these things are, on their own, unlikely to bring us happiness.

So, instead, perhaps we define success in healthier terms: Finding fulfilling work, a meaningful relationship, or having a positive impact on the world. It would be fair to say that I myself am seeking such things.

However, I think we are living dangerously if we choose to measure our self-worth, or to somehow track our progress in life by how well we are doing on these scales.

I think, in our society, what is really sad is that we find ourselves in a job we don't enjoy, or if we have a tumultuous love life, or if we have struggled to put our personal strengths to best use, we may conclude that we are getting it all wrong.

But whilst attainment of these w...

June 11, 2017

Was a bit strapped for blog-writing time this week, so thought I'd share something I wrote in my notepad during my adventure in the North last year.

Just to clarify for anyone trying to keep up with the life of Adam - I do not live in Yorkshire anymore! (note date at top of the excerpt below).

June 3, 2017

Though somewhat of a cliché, I think it's worth remembering that in any scenario, based on our skills and experience we have gained up till that point, we can only ever do our best.

As my internship approached last week, I found myself growing nervous about jumping into an environment of people experienced in the non-profit world. People well read on International Development, with their own personal views and missions. People well versed in the IT skills required in an office-based job. 

I was afraid of being embarrassed by my relative inexperience in these departments.

But why? If I compare myself to everyone else in the organisation, of course I'm going to be behind. I've spent the last ten years working on my skills as a musician, and not doing a great deal other than that. And I've made no secret of that fact.

All I can do is my best. And remember that any shortcomings I have are largely due to a result of having concentrated my efforts into different areas.

When I teach drums,...

May 27, 2017

I thought I might take a break from the reflective/philosophical writing this week and give you a quick update on what's actually going on for me.

The most exciting piece of news is that on Wednesday I started an 8 week internship at a non-profit organisation called The Founders Pledge.

TFP approach entrepreneurs and investors and encourage them to take a legally binding pledge that upon exit (sale of their business), they will give at least 2% of their personal proceeds to charity.

As you might imagine, even 2% of a particularly high-value entrepreneurs' profits can amount to a huge sum of money, which if deployed smartly to effective charities, can do a great deal of good. And many pledgers go further than 2%.

As well as raising all this money, TFP'sbroader mission is to create a community of entrepreneurs who are excited and passionate about social impact, and who can and want to use their experience and skills for good.

In terms of my role, for the first 5 weeks I'm working with th...

May 20, 2017

As I look at my life, I can point to many occasions where I might have gone back on decisions too early.

I recently came across something called the Dunning-Kruger effect. Put crudely, it is a sort of "the more you know, the more you realise you don't know" theory. It is easy to be optimistic at the start of a project, but as we delve further in, we see all the barriers to success and lose confidence. See graph below:

This strikes a chord with me, and I think explains in part why in the past I have changed direction too early.

I come up with a theory, an idea, a plan, and I get all pumped up. This breakthrough might be described as somewhat of an epiphany. I feel as though I have somehow "seen the light" and that my whole life has been leading up to this point. This is a game-changer and my life will be immeasurably better from now on, I think.

Exciting though these "epiphanies" can be, I have learnt that I need to exercise a certain amount of caution whe...

May 12, 2017

"No regrets man." Simple as it might be, this is one of the best pieces of advice given to me recently.

I'll admit it; despite writing a 5-part blog series about why I want to change career, I've been having doubts.

Did I only quit lessons with my drum teacher back in 2015 because it was October, dark and cold, and I was miserable? Was that a bad time to make such a decision?

Should I have tried harder to make my life work up North?

If I had a creative musical project feeding my artistic needs, would I take function gigs lighter and so enjoy them more?

Do I really need a job where I have more social interaction, or do I just need to take steps to improve my social life outside of work?

And am I really that altruistic? Do I actually care about making a difference, or is focussing on the needs of others just a convenient way out of obsessing over my own life?

Who knows. I don't necessarily believe that I have made all the right decisions, and that this is where I'm "supposed to be."

Perhaps if I...

May 6, 2017

This phrase by Alain de Botton got me thinking:

"In theory, we believe that the primary school teacher is making a more valuable contribution to society than the Victoria's Secret girlfriend of a premier league football player. But our society in general gives much more admiration and respect to the latter."

It does seem that, generally speaking, money and status are indicators of "the good life," more so than more meaningful things. 

And, ironically, although many of us profess that money is not the route to happiness, when it comes to judging others, our words may betray some opposing beliefs; beliefs that suggest that those with a materially rich life are less worthy of our compassion and sympathy.

For example, our definition of a "privileged childhood" might be one where the child is brought up by wealthy parents in a luxurious home setting, rather than one where the child is raised by loving and nurturing parents (not of course, that the two are mutually exclu...

April 29, 2017

How do we balance ambition and appreciation?

Is our drive to make changes in our lives purely down to a lack of gratitude?

Is it the case that the grass is always greener on the other side?

I think perhaps not. I think it is probably human nature to strive for more, and we should not suppress those urges.

Having said that, it is certainly true that we can drastically alter our quality of life simply by how we choose to look at it.

My theory is that we could look at the problem of balancing appreciation and growth by looking at how they relate to the long and the short term.

I have certain dissatisfactions with my life, and I am making changes to address them.

However this is a long-term process. These changes are not going to take effect tomorrow, and I should not wait for them to take effect to be happy. 

And I think this is where appreciation comes in. This is where we need to do some mental re-shifting to see the good in our current situation.

Because,...

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