The Power of Travelling

“The world is a book, and those who do no travel read only one page.”

Living in the 21st century the opportunity to see the world has never been greater. A quick search now tells me that the furthest city from my home town of Edinburgh is Dunedin, New Zealand. For less than £1000 I could go. Not that I have a spare grand lying around, but it’s very much saveable. For that price I would be able to see the full influence of travel in the world with Dunedin taking its name by the old name for Edinburgh and actually being modelled on Scotland’s capital. The perfect opportunity to see the real influence of human adventure over the years. Around 60’000 years ago humans first ventured out of Africa to all corners of the globe. With this brought visible changes to the world and the start of how we can change our planet; for good and for bad. Since then we have seen the rise and fall of many, many empires and changes in power and religion but this is all done by the natural human impulse to travel and explore.

Working for Tree of Knowledge allows me the opportunity to see parts of my country I would have never seen before. Couple with my personal travels, I am now lucky enough to have visited places like Laurencekirk and Los Angeles, Dunblane and Durban, Shettleston and the Shetlands or even Bradford and Bangkok. The incredible thing about this is that no matter where I venture, these places go back to how they were after the briefest of moments in each other’s company.

Or do they? I’ve always been a believer that places and travelling changes who we are but we also change the places we go. Seeing the extreme poverties in a South African township allowed me to experience a level of empathy previously unknown. The affluent Orange County in California afforded me a heightened, and slightly materialistic, ambition usually out of character for me. These places have undoubtedly changed me but they’re just places. Some of them have long lasting cultures, all weird and wonderful in their own way but you just have to look at Dubai over the last 20 years to see the massive impact humans continue to have on the world. So instead of this idea of going through life to try and ‘find yourself’, why not go through life and build who you are? Allow yourself to take small parts of the places you go to learn and grow. Leave your mark and take from it what you can.

Beyond this, remember that you shape the places you visit too, so think about how you do this and the effect this has on the next visitor. Above all, don’t litter.

 

Stuart Fenwick (@StuFenwick7)

Motivational Speaker at Tree of Knowledge (tree_of)

Anti-Fragility

My favourite villain is probably The Joker from Batman. Specifically, Heath Ledger’s famous performance in The Dark Knight. There is just something captivating about his obsession with chaos, disorder, and anarchy.

That positive impression of disorder is very much limited to the movie. Outside of that, most of us will agree that we prefer a more straightforward, ‘normal’ life.

This is mainly because when some sort of shock happens to an object or a person there are various paths it can take. If someone manages to come through an impactful event as strong as they were before, this is called resilient. And it is praised.

But we can also grow weaker due to a shock and this is what we would label fragility. However, there was (until recently) no terminology for something that benefits from shocks; to thrive from volatility.

Whilst there is a lot to be taken from resilience, there is no doubt that growing stronger is better than staying the same. So, we needed a word for it.

Various things happened on November 27th 2012. Micky Baker, the American guitarist, passed away. I turned 24 (and definitely felt fragile the next day). And Nassim Nicholas Taleb released a book titled ‘Antifragile: Things that gain from Disorder.’

 

“…a property of systems that increase in capability, resilience of robustness as a result of stressors, shocks, volatility, noise, mistakes, faults, attacks of failures.”

 

The official definition above represents Taleb’s background in the financial trading industry. A lot of his previous work tore up many of the automatically accepted beliefs of the world of money and stocks. He was the Little Red Riding Hood to the big, bad wolves of Wall Street.

This work was a continuation of his previous books, but this time with an excellent crossover with life outside of the financial world. It represented a philosophy we could apply to everyday life. Although he does not see himself as a philosopher or as a poet he describes economics as a tragedy.

There are many examples of anti-fragility throughout history. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Thomas Edison claimed he didn’t invent the light bulb straight away. Instead he found ‘10’000 ways that don’t work.’ After 30 rejections, Stephen King threw the manuscript of his first novel in the bin. It was his wife’s retrieval that gave us Carrie.

If you want more feel free to search for stories about Elvis Presley, Vincent van Gogh, Oprah Wimphrey, Fred Astaire, Albert Einstein… The list goes on.

It’s an old cliché to talk about bouncing back from failure and demonstrating resilience. However, staying the same isn’t enough for a lot of us who really want to achieve something in life. Even after a big event in life, we want to move forward.

Bad exam results, not getting into university, failing to get a promotion, or ending a relationship can all seem upsetting at the time. With enough determination and the proper attitude, we can genuinely turn these things on their head. It’s a step beyond resilience. Resilience 2.0 if you like.

As manager of the English football club Crystal Palace, Iain Dowie was once ridiculed for using the word ‘bouncebackability’ to praise his players’ staging a dramatic comeback. There was a campaign launched to get the word added to the dictionary resulting in a lot of laughs from football fans. Little did Dowie realise that the concept he was eluding to was one of great significance.

Life can be difficult, throwing up various obstacles along the way. There’s no reason we can’t run faster after jumping a hurdle.

And yes, yes, I’m well aware Little Red Riding Hood didn’t actually beat the wolf. It was the woodsman. However, having read the story for the first time since childhood recently, it’s really quite gruesome. Fortunately for me, despite the impact of the story, I was able to get over it and come out stronger afterwards.

 

Stuart Fenwick (@StuFenwick7)

Motivational Speaker at Tree of Knowledge (@tree_of)

When andy murray won Wimbledon…

The moment Andy Murray won Wimbledon in 2013, I raised both hands in the air in a fist and closed my eyes to absorb the moment. It was an event I felt I’d never see. The main event was, of course, a Brit winning Wimbledon but even more so, it was a Scot! (We experience success less than most).

If that was my reaction, then imagine those of genuine British tennis fans. I find the sport very entertaining but I mean those with a real interest. Imagine the reactions of players who had tried and failed on behalf of Great Britain. The reaction of all coaches who had worked with Murray throughout the decades of tennis before this victory. The reaction of his current team of coaches, physios, dieticians, fitness staff etc. The reaction of his friends and family. The reaction of the man himself, Mr. Andy Murray.

Not only was this victory the culmination of 77 years of angst since Fred Perry’s triumph, but it was the product of Murray’s progress throughout his career. This had seen an improvement in Murray from his emergence as a teenager with high hopes year on year. His rise in prominence from potential to ability; from heroic to iconic. As an aside, it will be interesting to see if 15 year olds will be wearing buttoned-up Andy Murray polo shirts as they hang around swing parks drinking in 77 years’ time.

The hope of Murray winning Wimbledon had two possible paths. One could have seen the unfancied Murray claiming an against-the-odds upset to snatch the trophy (see golf’s Lawrie, Paul 1999). This would have provided great jubilation for the briefest of spells in history. However, the second path involved Murray rising in prominence year on year, step by step. We saw Murray claim the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award in 2004; remarkably reached the third round of Wimbledon in 2005 as a wild card (fatigue costing him a two set lead against David Nalbandian); reached the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2006; became one of only 2 players to beat Roger Federer in 2006… The list goes on.

Eventually all these awards and achievements saw Murray enter Wimbledon 2012 with the usual hope backed up with some realistic expectation. A great tournament with some great matches (Tsonga semi-final in particular) was ended in glorious failure with a 4 set defeat to the impressive Federer in the final. For a man derided for his lack of personality and character, Murray gave us a tear-jerking speech post-defeat that endeared him to the entire nation. We were comforted with an Olympic gold medal, but not satisfied. It fuelled the hunger for the Wimbledon trophy.

The summer of 2013 and the question of whether Murray could go one step further. Retention of his Brisbane International prize and a runners up spot at the Australian Open (losing to Djokovic in the final) was an encouraging start to the year. Losing the first two sets in the quarter final to Fernando Verdasco seemed to suggest a bitterly disappointing run this year. However, true to the dramatic form of his tournament he turned it around to move to the semi-final and ultimately the final.

This set up a third straight open final against Novak Djokovic. The Serb was playing at the top of his game, at times resembling playing tennis versus a brick wall. Completely unbefitting with British performance in other sports, when the pressure was on, Murray dominated and destroyed Djokovic in straight sets.

I have always been one to immerse myself in the crowd reaction regardless of whether I’m there or not. For me, the noise and joy which follow the most incredible moments in sport make sport what it is. The roar of joy, relief, pride and glory is one that will see me through the next 77 years of despair comfortably.

 

Stuart Fenwick (@StuFenwick7)

Motivational Speaker at Tree of Knowledge (@tree_of)