If you want full power to the engines: drop your shields


When we’re being sincere and authentic, we’ve got access to all our most powerful functions.

Authenticity allows our truest feelings and intentions to come to the front and have the benefit of our full focus and attention.

But this focus and power comes at the expense of our defences.

When we’re authentic and sincere, our shields are down. We’ve put all our energy into the engines and we’re not draining our batteries by powering defensive systems concerned with worrying about what others will think.

We can certainly feel exposed when we do this, but it comes with 2 massive upsides:

  1. We get the primary benefit of the authentic action. Authenticity springs from purpose, so when we’re being authentic and sincere, we’re fulfilling a purpose. And there is huge value in this.
  2. The more we operate in this mode, the more we realise just how unnecessary the shields are in the first place. The more authentic we are, the more we see that nothing that our shields appear to stop, can actually harm us anyway.

“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”
– Marcus Aurelius

“We do not recognize any injury that does not harm virtue. If I deserve these names there is no insult, it is justice; if I don’t deserve them, it is he who does the injustice that deserves to blush. Where is the insult? That I am bald or have weak eyes or thin legs? Can it be an insult to be told what is evident?”

– Seneca

Both Marcus Aurelius and Seneca illustrate how much of the injury we experience comes from our “sense” of being hurt. That we can only be harmed by others when we chose to feel harmed – when we acknowledge that they have done us harm.

So turn your your shields off and power your engines up.

Don’t worry about what the others think, they won’t be able to catch you anyway.

Water falling from the sky

Rain by A Dombrowski

I hadn’t noticed that it had started raining.

But as I looked out the window I felt myself tighten in exactly the same way as I would react to something truly god-awful.

And it was just water falling out of the sky.

I thought about how unhelpful it was to react this way to something as commonplace and benign as rain.

And how many other rain-reactions do we have?

How many “oh shit” tensing up moments do we have each day, to what amounts to water falling from the sky?

Maybe we could start by not expecting that it will alway be sunny.

The wise will start each day with the thought, “Fortune gives us nothing which we can really own.”… We live in the middle of things which have all been destined to die. Mortal have you been born, to mortals you have given birth. Reckon on everything, expect everything.


How to deal with scarcity

Nonsense clock

// Message from Sam: Hey do you have a few minutes to talk about something?

I glance at the clock. It’s 05.45 and this is the only time I have to get writing done in the day. It’s when I commit to putting pen to paper for 45 minutes and then hitting “publish”.

But Sam is:
a) a good friend,
b) not someone I get to talk to often, and
c) always a source of interesting ideas.

What to do?

Time is precious. It’s a surprisingly scarce resource, but people either seem to either forget this or conflate if with money.

My favourite reminder of time’s value is from Seneca who says:

“I am always surprised to see some people demanding the time of others and meeting a most obliging response. Both sides have in view the reason for which the time is asked and neither regards the time itself –as if nothing there is being asked for and nothing given. They are trifling with life’s most precious commodity, being deceived because it is an intangible thing, not open to inspection and therefore reckoned very cheap –in fact, almost without any value.”

His implication is that time is of great value (perhaps the highest value), and that other people both ask of it and give it freely because this value is invisible to them.

It seems then that the optimal response is to be miserly with your time, especially when it comes to the requests of others.

The problem is scarcity and how it makes us respond to finite resources. Scarcity lights a fire of fear. Fear of loss. Fear of not having enough. Fear of missing out. And so we start to hoard our scarce resources; we tuck them away and we keep them for ourselves.

But perhaps there is a third option. Perhaps the most optimal course of action is to be generous with our scarce resources. Not generous despite their scarcity, but because of it. That scarcity gives these resources more value, and so the gifts of them we choose to give are all the more precious.

I think the operative word here is to “choose”. It’s a deliberate action, taken with the full knowledge of what we are doing. We know how valuable time can be, and we give it to our friends because they are our friends, and it’s good to share value with them.

What else are we hoarding these resources for? If there is a more skilful way in which we can deploy them, then fine. But hoarding them because they are scarce and we are scared of being without them, is no way forward either.

I spoke to Sam, for longer than I would have spent writing. It was fun and informative and human and so full of value that it was a great use of time.

The result is that i’m now writing this on the 15 minute train journey in to work. Even with scarce and precious resources, you can often scrape up enough of the scraps to still extract some value. The coins under the sofa cushion, the minutes on the train, the quick hug on the way out the door.

Time is precious. It’s scarce and that makes people afraid, so be generous with it and you will find more of it when you need it. Know its value and choose to spent it how it pleases you best.

Bonus bit:
By the way, I’m not the only person who should spend time with Sam Bowring. He’s a hugely talented writer and comedian, so here are some of the ways you can enjoy what he does: