Desiderata by Max Ehrman

Speaking of timeless advice and beautiful writing…

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Less stuff, more time

For a while now, I’ve had an obsession with time. I think a lot about how best to spend my time, what I value, what brings meaning to my life and how to make sure I’m making the most of what I’ve got.

When I first started my ‘corporate’ career I was impressionable and started reading GQ, buying expensive suits and shirts, shoes and ties, tie clips and even bloody pocket squares! I try now to be a more conscious consumer but I realise it’s a really easy trap to fall into.

“We have a lot of stuff but we are poor in terms of our time and control of our time,” says Schor. “We must shift onto a path where we are less orientated to accumulating stuff and more orientated to accumulating time, connecting with people, building social capital. It is not how many toys you have when you die; it is much more the richness of your social life, that’s what really matters.”

This is an excellent quote from the really simple but well written article in Womankind “Why we need more time, and less clothes“. From a personal and sustainability perspective, it’s always interesting to think about whether you really need to buy a new set of threads.

Navigating your career path

I grew up with a pretty traditional mindset about career paths, and I thought I knew exactly what I wanted. I put my head down in school and studied, went straight into a very practical degree and then threw myself into landing a job at the most prestigious professional services firm I could find. When I finally came up for air I started to question whether I really wanted to be a ‘Partner’ or whether I was sleepwalking all along.

I’ve since spent a lot of time reflecting and thinking about a ‘career path’ and most importantly, how I’d like to spend my time on this earth. I recently came across “How to Pick a Career (That Actually Fits You)” on the excellent Wait But Why blog and it is one of the best frameworks I’ve seen for introspection and analysis on this topic.

A couple of my favourite quotes are:

The real cause of tyranny of choice is accurately seeing the sheer number of options you have in today’s world while delusionally seeing those careers as the 40-year tunnels of yesterday’s world. That’s a lethal combo. Reframing your next major career decision as a far lower-stakes choice makes the number of options exciting, not stressful.

I think the tunnel analogy is excellent – I now view work experience and learning as cumulative and broadly applicable across different careers (outside of certain deep niche skills).

A better goal is contentment: the satisfying feeling that you’re currently taking the best crack you can at a good life path; that what you’re working on might prove to be a piece of an eventual puzzle you can feel really proud of. Chasing happiness is an amateur move. Feeling contentment in those times when your choices and your circumstances have combined to pull it off, and knowing you have all that you could ever ask for, is for the wise.

Great common sense advice.


General tips for healthy living

I recently read an article by John Schumann, a doctor who is frequently asked for medical advice by friends and family. He says that medical professionals aren’t always sure what is wrong and mostly use educated guesses to do their best to treat patients.

They do know a lot about prevention, and most of it is really simple stuff. There’s no silver bullet, the hard part is not doing these things, it’s doing them consistently, building them into your routine and making them a habit.

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Move your body.
  • Eat well.
  • Interact socially.
  • Take time to reflect and practice gratitude.

I love this simple advice. It’s like the one line diet “eat only foods with less than three ingredients” that steers you toward buying fresh and raw ingredients.

Like learning anything, it comes down to practice and repetition. Bill Gates said that we overestimate what we can do in a year and underestimate what we can do in a decade. Like compound interest, these preventative steps really pay off in the long run.

It’s worth reading the full article, and coming back to it often. Check it out here.