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22nd January 2015

Twenty Four, New Starts and Updates

I suppose it's about time to dust this blog off with another annual update. So first off I'm now twenty four, which even after two months still scares the heck out of me. Where do I begin? This year has been a really strange one. I've frequently found myself questioning things that I was almost certain of a couple of years ago, and for the first time in a while I'm feeling increasing lost and confused about the direction I'm heading in. When I look back I guess I've always had quite clear goals for myself and I always thought I knew the path I needed to take to get there, but I'm not sure I really did anymore. I think another factor is simply that I'm really quite content with where I am right now, I've got a lot of the things that I wanted over the last few years and now I'm struggling with how to start a new chapter.

Another thing that's bothered me recently is how I react when I hear these 17 year old kids at tech meetups tell me how they're going to make the next big website or product. I no longer get excited, I just worry for them. It's been nearly 10 years since I started that journey and honestly, if there is one thing I've learnt, it's that 99% of the time it'll get you'll get no where. And the problem is sometimes it distracts you from the things that actually can get you somewhere, studying, work experience, etc. Perhaps more importantly though is how it can distract you from just living in general. It kills me to think about the amount of hours, days and weeks of my youth that I've pour into projects that go less than no where. Time is extremely important, maybe the most important skill we can ever learn is to manage it effectively. You don't need me to tell you that spending 5 hours a day watching reality TV isn't a good use of your time, but I promise if you're spending that 5 hours working on a project that goes nowhere and teaches you nothing it's almost just as wasteful. If you're putting a considerable amount of time into something each week, whether that be TV or reading, it's important to routinely consider how that activity is impacting your life. Does it make you happy, and would you be happier if you were spending that time in some other way? Does it help you open doors, or does it just keep you where you are? Ideally everything you do should be both enjoyable but also assist you in achieving the goals you're shooting for. To bring this concept on to startups I vow that this year I will not start a project and potentially waste my time unless it meets the following criteria:

  • It's interesting and enjoyable to work on
  • It won't take more than two months to reach MVP
  • It requires me to learn something I know absolutely nothing about that I'm interested in learning
  • There is a clear and identifiable market and revenue model
  • I, or the people I am working with have all the tools necessary to build, market and sale the product

Something else I want to talk about is new starts. I don't really care much about the "new year, new start" mantra - the only thing that's really ever new is the label we use to describe it. But, this year it seems quite fitting for me at least. My house was robbed about a week before Christmas and with it, a bag with all the memories I had kept. Postcards, zoo tickets, recipes, notes. Just little things that I could keep to remind me of happy times I've had. I have no idea why they took what was, to anyone else, just a bag of paper. But, they did, and I just need to accept some of the memories I had attached to those silly bits of paper are now gone forever. So now I'm here. I'm twenty four. Caught somewhere between a past that I have no record of and a future I have no idea how to start. And I'm excited to see how this will play out.

Finally, I have a lot of topics I want to write about this year. For the past three years I've been keeping track of everything interesting I've learnt, condensing it down into little bites of information that I want to start publishing here. So with a bit of luck there will be some more content here over the next few months.


11th February 2014

The day we fought back with a list of names

Today, February, 11th 2013 is the day we fight back. Today we will fight back against mass surveillance from our governments. No longer will we accept them surveilling us without reason. And what is our weapon of choice in this fight you ask? A list of names.

I'm all for this kinda stuff. Honestly, I'm glad people are annoyed about the NSA and want to do something. Hell, I added my name to the list of angry-internet people too - I even used my real name. But after I finished furiously typing my name into the online form presented to me at thedaywefightback.org I couldn't help but smile ironically and the big yellow button I was about to click reading, "TAKE ACTION". Because it was at that moment I thought, "what exactly am I doing here?", "Am I really making any difference?", "Is this list really going to change anything?".

I began to think a little more about the list I just added my name to and I wondered what were they planning to do with my name? I scrolled down the page for some more information and I found a heading that read, "what we can do". The first paragraph explained to me, "Governments worldwide need to know that mass surveillance, like that conducted by the NSA, is always a violation of our inalienable human rights." Huh? Yeah sure, but they already know right? Isn't the issue here that they just don't care. Well maybe they're doing something that will make them care!

I kept reading... "By signing the Principles, you will show that you're part of a movement that knows mass surveillance is a violation of international human rights law." Now I'm part of a movement? Hell yeah! That was easy, did people die in these kind of movements before? I only had to type my name into my computer from my air conditioned office chair and now I'm part of a worldwide movement for freedom and human rights!

And then I read the final paragraph, "We'll use your signature, with thousands of others, to pressure governments and international institutions to forbid mass surveillance anywhere in the world." then I realised something. I'm not really putting any pressure on our governments to stop their surveillance. Maybe these guys at thedaywefightback.org are, maybe they're posting their lists through politician's doors, maybe they're creating a fuss and trying to bring about change? But am I? Is my name and my tweet really going to do anything? Maybe, it's not the government who need to know that they're in violation of our human rights. Maybe instead they need to know that people are actually angry at what they've done. So angry that they're prepared to pressure our governments themselves. I wondered if I was really angry, would I just be posting a tweet or two? I think most people tweet more than that about the X Factor each year.

I'm not saying I know the answer, but I don't think it's this. Now I'm kind of hoping today wasn't the day we fought back, because I'm doubting if our opposition was even aware of our resistance.


2nd January 2014

Twenty Three.

I recently I turned twenty three and I thought it would be an ideal time to list some of the things I've learnt during the 23rd year of my life.


Sometimes you don't know you're truly happy until the time has past.
This is something that hit me hard this year. If you ever find yourself in a really great moment, or if you're just happy with how your life is going in general, try to appreciate that happiness while it's still there.


The world doesn't owe you anything
I think this is something we can all forget. We often believe life owes us something. We get mad when things happen that we can't control and when things don't go as smoothly as we want them to. Bad things happen and we can only do so much. There's a quote that I think sums this up, "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf."


Make the most of the youth you have left
Today is the youngest you'll ever be. So make the most of it while you can. Run, play a sport, even climb a mountain! Simply enjoy how able your body is. You're never too old to enjoy a walk through the park.


It's easier to burn a bridge than build one
It can take years to build a strong friendship or relationship with someone but it can take just minutes to destroy. It can be extremely easy to break connections with people. If you appreciate somebody in your life, show them.


Life goes on
Nothing is permanent, the worst times in life will eventually pass and the best times won't last forever. The best we can do is enjoy where we are in the present and be appreciative for the rich set of experiences that life brings.


29th November 2012

No pressure, have fun. It's all pointless anyway

I heard a quote recently, "Don't take life so seriously, no one gets out alive". I've heard it 100 times before but this time it resonated with me. Lately, while watching my friends and myself grow into young adults I've noticed a change in our attitude from when we were younger. We're no longer as driven by our long term goals, we have responsibilities in the present, and if that means sacrificing what we want in the long term so we can live easier in the present, that's what we'll do. We settle into a secure routines, maybe your job sucks but it pays the bill, or maybe you want to move away but that's too much effort.

Let's put your life into perspective for a moment. You're just one human alive today among another 7 billion other humans and the 100s of billions of humans that came before that. The planet you live on is just a spec compared to the size of the solar system, and even the solar system is a spec when compared to the Milky Way. Even the size of the Milky Way is irrelevant when compared to the vastness of the universe. Your freewill, it's probably an illusion and it's pretty likely that the universe you're in is just one massive simulation.

It can be a little unnerving how our human problems seem so trivial when compared to the scope of the universe, but the triviality of our lives can be used to empower our actions. Take a typical scenario where you might feel nervous about making a big decision in life, changing jobs for example. We can feel anxiety because it could be a change for the worse. We might not get on with the employees or it could be more stressful. This fear of change often stops us getting want we really want. During situations like this it can be comforting to remind ourselves of the real perspective of the situation. It's completely meaningless in the scope of larger scope of things so really we shouldn't be worrying so much and just get on with it, what's the worse that can happen?

It's not just big decisions this type of thinking can be useful to consider. It's also helpful for coping with stressful situations. We've all been in situations where we want to do something but we've decided otherwise because of our own self-doubt. Think of a great singer that's too frightened to sing on stage. Here it's helpful to take a step back and ask yourself, in the larger scope of things does it really matter?

Of course you should still stay rational about all the decisions and actions you make. Just keep in mind that we have little reason to take them so seriously letting our responsibilities and fears overwhelm us, leaving little to no room for our personal happiness. It's much more important for us to take a few risks and have fun living a life as close to our dreams as we can, even if that means doing a things that are a little frightening from time to time.

Have fun and try not to waste your future worrying about what people think of you, panicking about making the perfect decisions, or being a slave to responsibility. In quite a genuine way the epic scale of the universe we live in is really just its way of saying to us, "no pressure, have fun. It's all pointless anyway".


16th July 2012

Maximising Happiness

Let me put you in my shoes, I'm nearly 22, I've just finished university and I'm just starting to realise I won't be young forever like I once thought I would. I'm sure many of you have already pasted this stage in life and you've probably already had to think about the difficult questions on my mind at moment such as, 'what's my purpose in life?'

I'm sure you're wondering, why a 21 year old guy is worrying about all this? I'm still so young right? Yeah, I suppose but I know I won't be forever, and once my youth has past I'll never get it back again. There are no second chances here, not for any of us, I need to make the most of what I have left of my youth and then of my life. I recently watched a TED Talk where Jane McGonigal highlighted the top 5 most common regrets from the dying. I recommend you watch the full video but for now here's the list:

  1. I wish I hadn't worked so hard
  2. I wish I stayed in touch with my friends
  3. I wish I let myself be happier
  4. I wish I had the courage to express my true self
  5. I wish I'd lived a life true to my dreams, instead of what others expected of me

Think about what you want from life at the moment? Maybe you're saving up for a new car or maybe you're trying to get a promotion. I know most my friends who are finishing university are looking for full time employment right now, and that's great, but when you're lying on your death bed and someone asks you, 'what do you regret the most?' Would you reply, 'not getting that car', or, 'not getting that job'?

People often state, 'happiness comes from within', and I think that's probably half right. There are two categories these regrets seem to fall under. The first set are regrets about who we we're and how we acted during our life; our personalities. The second categories is what we did, and who we interacted with; our choices.

We all wish we were slightly different, maybe we want to be more confident or more outgoing but how can we make these changes and be the people we want to be? It's hard to just simply say, 'today I'm going to be more social', and then actually go do it. I've always been an awkward kid, I never liked social events, they made me feel like I was out of place and different to everyone else. Although I didn't like social settings I always felt I was missing out. I noticed all my friends having fun and wondered why I couldn't enjoy myself like that. I knew I didn't want to regret not being a part of that when I was older, so a few years ago I started making a change, I started going to social events and spending more time with my friends. This was the first small change I made. Next I decide I needed to be more sociable so I tried to interact with people whenever I could. Like with everything the more you practise the better you get and now I'm a lot better and I honestly enjoy going out and spending time with my friends and even meeting new people. If you want to change who you are you'll need to make these small changes. Put yourself into these uncomfortable, unfamiliar situations and realise although you might regret it at the time you probably won't when you're older. You know what they say, you don't regret the things you've done, but those you did not.

That's just half the story though, even if we have a great positive personality to truly be happy and be free from regret in our lives we need to have a rich set of experiences that make us fill we lived out our life to its fullest possible. They experiences could be traveling, or something crazier like skydiving or mountain climbing, basically doing things that make us feel we've accomplished something. Again it's not easy to just go out and do these things, but one way we could help increase the amount of experiences with have is simply to be move open to new things. If you have a co-worker or friend who is going to a cool place or has a cool hobby ask if it would be alright for you to join them. Try to say 'yes' more even when you're not sure if you'll enjoy it at the time, remember most the time you'll be glad you did it!

To conclude remember your happiness is the most important thing. A certain amount of money will make you happy but if you're working 6 out of 7 days every week you've probably not got a good balance. The first step in regaining control of your life is by realising you don't 'have' to do anything, and in fact everything you do in life is of your choice. You choose to go to work just like you choose to do anything. You always have choices, even if sometimes they might be difficult to make. So put happiness first and live a live true to your dreams without regret.


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